Shelter in the storm | Joan Bay Klope

Have you ever considered a list of topics and free associated about them? Such an activity involves suggesting a word and making note of the first thought that pops into your mind. Most likely it’s your natural inclination or most honest response. Given these parameters, let’s play for a brief moment, beginning with your immediate thoughts surrounding the phrase “God the Father.”

I can relate to this image for I experienced the great love and devoted care of an earthly father. If, however, this was not your experience, the Bible says God planned for your birth no matter the circumstances and takes on the image of a father because you would be able to relate on some level and at some point in your life. In fact, He resembles an intrigued and fully-engaged father:

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations

he had us in mind and settled on us

as the focus of his love.

I have carried you since you were born;

I have taken care of you from your birth.

Even when your hair has turned gray,

I will take care of you.

If God knows each one of us so thoroughly, He must also have the desire to listen to our prayers, suffer alongside us when we are filled with pain, and stay ever present with us as we go about living our lives.

The Message Bible moves us even further along this path of understanding by paraphrasing a verse in the book of Romans that says, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us.” While a loving and caring father is a role model that serves us for a lifetime, sometimes we long for God to protect and shield us, to be powerful when we feel weak. This week, in fact, as I watched towns situated along the mighty Mississippi River flood, God did not act father-like. He displayed enormous power and I wondered if people felt abandoned.

My question was answered by countless residents who describe the unceasing care of their neighbors, the compassion and tireless efforts to shore up levy banks by volunteers and various members of the military called to sandbag for hours at a time. Their strength has been frequently associated with the mighty power of a loving and compassionate God.

When I was a child I often made summertime trips to the Midwest with my brother and parents to visit relatives. We drove our car from the West Coast through the desert Southwest to Oklahoma, arriving tired and sweaty but happy to see everyone.

During each trip I watched God Almighty in action. I saw His depth in the Grand Canyon, His mystery in Carlsbad Caverns, His purity in the White Sands of New Mexico, and His power in thunderstorms that frequently overtook our car.

Countless times I recall watching threatening thunderclouds roll across the skies in the very direction we were headed. We would look for the lightening and watch for the edge of the storm, knowing the rain and wind would eventually overtake our family car.

As much as we loved the excitement associated with the storms, they occasionally scared us. I recall thunder so loud I would cover my ears. At times my dad had to pull to the side of the highway as our wipers could not keep up with the torrents of rain hitting our vehicle. I also recall hopping up into the front seat to sit on the confident lap of my dad, where I always felt safe from any storm.

My most vivid lesson in the ways of God Almighty came the night my brother and I were put to bed upstairs at my great aunt’s house in Marlow, Okla. While my parents visited with adult family members downstairs, Brian and I contented ourselves by watching a huge tree sway outside the bedroom window. As the minutes passed, sleep evaded us while a summer storm brewed outside. Soon the branches began slapping against the window and dark, alarming sounds grew closer. Torrents of rain pelted the roof, the room lit up with the brightest light I had ever seen, and the crack of thunder overhead sent us for the only shelter we could find: the light sheet covering our legs. In seconds after hearing our pathetic wailing we could hear Dad lunging up the stairs and see him spring through the door to encircle us both in his protective arms.

The face of God can be almighty, but He is never just powerful. He will, at the scariest of moments, provide ways for us to experience His tender and protective, loving and compassionate nature. He will stay God the loving Father all the while.

The storm will pass. The sun will shine, once again.

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