I once slept through a Category 5 hurricane.
The year was 1992. I was a stressed 6-year-old in muggy Miami, swimming and drawing and letting my tiny maltese, Homer, chase me up and down the tile hallway when I came home from school. My mom had just remarried, and we’d just left Los Angeles. The home I’d known and the school I’d known were gone. Life felt unpredictable and stormy in every way.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I watched Paul, my new dad, barely break a sweat as he put up hurricane shutters. I saw grown- ups with scrunched up eyebrows staring at TV screens and noticed everyone seemed to be at the grocery store for water jugs, just like us. I could tell things were strange, but it wasn’t clicking to me that this massive, life-threatening storm—the one they called Andrew—would cause more than $25 billion in damages in just one day. I didn’t know our city was about to change forever. I didn’t understand this thing was about to travel directly over our little white lakefront townhouse.
At that time in my life, bedtime was a stressful event, because I was very concerned about the concept of “a full night’s sleep.” I wanted to be at school at 7:30, half an hour early, so I’d have a chance to settle and be relaxed before class started. Mental preparation was important. If I got thrown into my day all willy-nilly and had to rush to class, who knows what the day would hold then? WHO KNOWS? Might as well not even wake up for that kind of day.
Waking up this early still required a solid nine hours, because I’d been told by grown-ups that nine hours of sleep a night was important.
So having a morning routine I could count on was a nonnegotiable. But when I learned the time I fell asleep could affect my morning, my adrenaline kicked into high gear. Go to sleep, Scarlet. Go to sleep, right now, Scarlet. Don’t you dare not go to sleep right now, Scarlet. IT’S TEN P.M. ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, SCARLET. SLEEEEEEP!
Bedtime stress. I was proficient enough at math to know if I looked at my digital bedside clock and saw the glowing green numbers went beyond 9:30 p.m., my nine hours would be compromised.
Nights there were extenuating circumstances—a dinner out at a restaurant that went a little late, an episode of Underdog sucking me in and making me lose track of time—I’d be in so much turmoil that I’d stay up until almost midnight crying about how I wasn’t going to get a solid nine hours.
But the eve of Hurricane Andrew was not one of those nights. I crawled into bed at 8:45, dozed off easier than usual and slept through the most destructive hurricane to ever hit Florida.
When I woke up and went outside, I couldn’t see the road we lived on because it was covered in pieces of our neighborhood. My hometown had been crushed during my doctor-recommended nine hours. I had been entirely unaware of the danger, oblivious to the threat, blind to the reality that storms like Andrew cause death and devastation.
Years later, Hurricane Harvey, a storm bigger than Andrew,threatened the people I love in Miami. I was looking at this big, ominous image all over every screen, plowing toward my people, and thinking, How can we find peace here? There are storms within and storms without. How can any of us feel safe?
And I remembered we can’t. Not on our own, anyway. No chance. We don’t get to be safe by ourselves.
We are kids with crumbling dreams. We are palm trees in violent winds. We are weaker than the waters that rise in our lives. Our fears can feel like a hurricane.
But we are not alone.
Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
We are not alone because we have a Shield. Our Shield overcame death and every single thing that makes us afraid. He can handle our fears. Our glory is beyond us. It is not the life we’ve built that can be crushed or washed away. We have a greater glory, sealed forever.
And He is the One who lifts up our heads.
Scarlet Hiltibidal’s book, Afraid of All the Things: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and Other Stuff You Need the Gospel For, is available now.