Much to Reese’s disappointment, there wasn’t snow in the forecast for the Colorado Springs area before we left Houston. But, Reese prayed about it, and, lo and behold, by our last night in Colorado Springs a blizzard was setting in. It was the worst storm of the winter and it turned out to be one of the strongest storms of the last few years.
Mindy and I decided to leave for Denver early, which meant driving back at night through the opening movements of the storm. We checked out of the hotel early, piled into the car, and set out. Reese was amped up. While I had packed up the room, she and Mindy had stayed at an Irish restaurant nearby and Reese had been dancing to Celtic rock.
The driving conditions were nasty, especially for someone raised in Houston.
I couldn’t see the lanes. Couldn’t often see the tracks of other cars. In all honesty, before you and me, I couldn’t really see the other cars. There was blowing snow. I kept two clenched hands on the wheel the whole time. Muscle knots buckled my shoulders. I found myself faking a confident look on my face for Mindy to see while desperate prayers knocked around inside me. Almost every time I had to brake the car I let out an audible groan. I drove 35 miles per hour on the highway the whole way to Denver. It felt fast.
Reese promptly fell asleep. Once we were out of Colorado Springs and the blizzard started socking it to us, she started snoring. She didn’t wake up until we had reached the hotel in Denver. Upon opening her eyes, Reese stretched and said something like, “That was a quick, easy trip.”
A day or so later it occurred to me that this was one of the greatest compliments Reese has given me. Ever. I’m sure Reese didn’t realize she was giving a compliment, but it was a great one nonetheless.
In Mark chapter four Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. A furious storm suddenly sets in. The disciples start fighting a two-front war against the storm on one side and their terror on the other.
Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. The disciples wake him up and get on his case. They say, “Don’t you care if we drown?!?!”
Jesus, probably still yawning and stretching and scratching and doing all the things people do when we first wake up, stills the storm. Then he has a few choice words for his disciples. And after that I bet Jesus goes back to sleep on his pillow nestled in the stern.
It appears that Jesus trusted God enough to rest, even in the midst of a storm.
In the Old Testament the term for the quality of God’s character that elicits this trust in God’s people is “hesed.” It is a hard word to capture in English, but can be translated as mercy, loving-kindness, or steadfast love. My favorite rendering of it is loyal love.
Hesed, the loyal love of the God who brought the universe into being, invites from us a deep sense that when God calls us his own, we can rest upon God’s loyalty through thick and thin.
It does not mean life will be free of storms. It does not mean those storms will always be stilled quickly. (Jesus surely knew this in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prayed on the night before his execution.)
But it means God’s love enfolds us in a life-giving and unbreakable embrace. It means we can stand upon that loyal love even if its presence and deliverance is not readily visible until the morning dawns and resurrection comes. An old hymn calls this quality of God’s character his “everlasting arms” upon which we can lean.
Through Jesus this hesed is extended to all, even to me and to you. It is the power behind Christ’s “this is my body and blood given for you” at the Table and Jesus’ last words in the Gospel of Matthew: “I am with you always….”
If God is really loyal to us, then this can be the foundation from which we approach the storms and crises and nights of tossing and turning and doubt. And, if this is the foundation, maybe we can always be free to rest and play, even when so much in life seems so dark.
And maybe resting and playing, even in the middle of the storm, is the greatest compliment we can give God. Jesus calls this compliment faith.
A shadow of this compliment was what Reese was giving me on I25 into Denver. She didn’t know exactly what was happening, but she trusted me to bring her through. Amazingly, I did.
May I relate to the Lord more like the way Reese related to me in Colorado.
After all, God’s ability to carry us through the rough patches of life is infinitely more trustworthy than a Gulf-Coasting, Houston-dwelling, flat-lander’s ability to drive through a Rocky Mountain blizzard.