There is a true story of a battleship cruising the Atlantic off the northern coast of Maine one stormy evening. The commander of the battleship was notified. "Sir, there's a light ahead. Oncoming vessel."
"Signal oncoming vessel, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west.'" The message was sent, but a light flashed back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east." The commander barked, "Signal again, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am an admiral.'" The light flashed back. "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I'm a seaman third class."
By this time the admiral was incensed as he thundered, "Signal again. 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am a battleship.'" And the message came back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I am a lighthouse!" Needless to say, the admiral changed his course!
Sometimes we act like we think we are admirals. We're the boss. We're the one in charge. We are going to do it our way! But if we listen, our "lighthouse" is saying, "Change your course." When that happens, we need to change our course.
Jeffrey R. Holland has said, "Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32)."
Storms fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Arizona desert where rain, or even a cloud, is not something that you see every day. I grew up east of the city, in an area where the washes ran into the roads and a storm would seem to completely cut you off from civilization. Since each storm in the desert is an Event, I have learned to anticipate and enjoy the few I have encountered.
One of the most amazing storms in the desert is a "common" dust storm. These storms are not little like you might see in other areas of the country. On a hot summer day, in the late afternoon, a dust storm rolls into the Valley of the Sun. You might notice a brown blur off in the distance. It looks a little like brown smoke. As it blows nearer, it takes form as an immense wall of dust.
This storm comes at you literally like a wall. You can see the edge and gauge the distance. If you are smart, you bring in the outside laundry, put away all the toys that are loose in the yard and bring the kids into the house. You also close all the windows, no matter how hot it is! (And believe me, in the summertime it is HOT!) I have found from sad experience that it is easier to bear with a little heat in the house instead of spending hours and days cleaning up the sand and dust!
But once we are all safe inside the house, we enjoy the wind. We watch the storm blow in. First, you can see the trees in the park across the road start to flutter and blow. Dancing a slow dance. Soon, they are moving faster and faster, like they are listening to their own dance music. Then the wall of the storm hits! All you can see is brown bits blowing through the air outside the window. You can't even see the neighbor's house. You feel like you are all alone in a strange, brown, whirling world.
A brief rainstorm usually follows with big splashes of water, dampening the desert, bringing out the smell of the mesquite trees and the orange blossoms. Seeing the difficulties coming and preparing for them can help us to find our own safe harbor. We feel safe together inside the shelter of our home.
But dust-storms fade next to the amazing treat of a real rain storm on the Arizona desert. I have not always enjoyed storms. In fact, I remember being afraid of thunder and lightning when I was younger. In the desert, the lightening dances around the sky in a big blaze of white light. It is a spectacular show, even more brilliant than the fourth of July fireworks. When the thunder rumbles throughout the desert, it drowns out all other sound, and the rain falls in sheets of water, drenching everything in it's path.
My three little girls have always been afraid of storms. They don't like the loud noise of the thunder or the bright flash of the lightening. When we moved up into the mountains of northern Arizona, we realized that the lightening storms are even more spectacular and often bring with them the added scare of starting a nearby tree on fire. (Never a pleasant experience when your house is right next door!)
Every year, in the months of July and August, the storm builds up and breaks loose on our little town.
One year, the lightning was so fierce that the girls were terrified. They called me when I was at work, crying and sobbing, hysterically, on the phone and than held hands and huddled under the dining room table until I could get home to them.
That was the first year that we lived on the mountain. I did not know how to calm them, except to be home with them when they were so afraid. Every time the thunder rumbled or the lightening flashed, they would cower in terror. Their dad was living and working in the valley at the time and selling the old house before he moved up with the rest of us at the end of the summer season. It was a long summer for us. I did not know what to say to help the girls through their fear.
The next year, he wasn't working and was home with the girls during the monsoon. He would go out the door when the wind picked up and stand in the driveway or on the dirt street, shielding his eyes from the blowing dirt, and teach the girls about storms. He talked about the movement of the clouds and how to tell if a storm was coming. He talked about the different types of clouds and what caused the storms. He talked of larger weather patterns and how to calculate the distance from you to the lightning.
But more than teaching them the scientific facts about the weather, their daddy quietly taught them, through his example, not to be afraid. He taught them that storms are to be appreciated and admired, watched and studied, but not feared. Knowledge and love help to counter our troubles and bring us to our own safe harbors were we can be less afraid.
As we plan and prepare and are anchored by the love of our families and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we find the safe harbor that Helaman spoke of: “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power to drag you down … , because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation” (Hel. 5:12).
Yes, I have seen the storm. I have experienced it's power. I have been amazed at it's magnitude. I have even felt it's fear. But I have also learned that the "lighthouse" of our Savior stands ready to help guide us in our journey and lead us home. He is the rock. Only He can calm the winds and the waves of trial and adversity in our lives.
He alone has the power to say, “Peace, be still”.