Sometimes I Wonder
by Eva Zarley
As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
2 Kings 2:1
Sometimes I wonder how I will exit from this world. This could be the day and like Elijah, I might be taken up in a whirlwind, if the forecast is right. There's a good chance that might happen to me, yet. Not because I am a powerful prophet, of course, but because I have a morbid fascination with severe weather. When sensible folks are taking cover, I am running outside to scan the skies. A tornado warning is a call for me to send my family to seek shelter. Once I am satisfied my loved ones are safely out of harm's way, it is my custom to step into harm's way for a peek. I understand the storm chasers and I share their dream of watching a twister sweep across the horizon. I would not wish to see such a thing in the path of people and homes, but my heart races with excitement, not fear, whenever I hear a weather siren.
When I was a junior in high school, a series of powerful tornados touched down in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. The destruction was unbelievable, even when I saw it afterward, with my own eyes. My mother and I stood on the back porch and watched the very top of the storm cell that produced the beast. It whisked across the sky with amazing speed and then was gone. But it was quite a distance away. Its fierce winds never touched us and all was peaceful and serene in our backyard. But those who were in the midst of those violent spirals were praying for their lives. As I watched the boiling clouds, I recall thinking it strange that it should be so calm around me, when only miles away, folks were experiencing the horror of a swirling tempest.
A few years ago, a tornado warning sounded on my weather radio. I saw a funnel forming above the tree line, behind the pond. The black clouds were being sucked into a conical shape like water going down the bathtub drain. One side of the field was dark as night while on the other, the sun shone, casting an eerie green hue. Grabbing my camera, I ran through the hail to get some pictures. The funnel never touched down, dissipating nearly as quickly as it formed. Still the boiling skies made great photos. While some have admired those shots, few have felt I was a very smart girl to be out there taking them.
Once, I nearly got to experience seeing a tornado very "up close and personal." I was in a discount dept. store, about to enter the fitting room. The attendant was worrying over the weather. A funnel cloud had been sighted nearby. Then the civil defense sirens went off and the management asked all employees and shoppers to go to the center of the store. That happened to be the fitting room area. As frightened people started converging upon the department, I bolted. Tornados don't invoke fear in me as much as panicking crowds do. I wanted to see the monster, if indeed there was one to be seen. If I was going to leave this world, I preferred to experience the excitement of seeing this mighty atmospheric phenomenon before checking out. That would be much better than dying in a heap of twisted metal, ladies undergarments, rubble and screaming people.
Making quick calls to my husband and son, I advised them to find a safe place to stay until the warnings had passed. Then I made a beeline for the exit, hoping no one would try to stop me. I stood alongside the men who were watching the approaching storm from the lot behind the store. A vast extension of undeveloped land backed up to the shopping center, giving a great view of the tumultuous horizon. I had just missed the funnel that had dropped, hesitated slightly and then pulled back up into the storm cell. However, the super cell that produced it was huge and looked ominously ripe to spawn other spirals. Steadily, the boiling clouds rumbled and heaved toward us. I marveled at the enormity and power of it, as I watched in horrible fascination. If a tornado did form in that rolling mass, the department store was directly in its path. I was glad to be outdoors and not in that building.
As the storm drew closer, we were treated to some of the most explosive and continuous thunder I have ever heard. Along with that, however, was some of the most deadliest lightning bolts I have ever seen. Now, I might be foolish enough to stand in the path of an oncoming tornado, but I am not stupid enough to stand in a parking lot with cloud to ground lightning. Sadly, I was forced to go back inside. There I was faced once again with the frightened shoppers and employees. They must have all thought my sparkling eyes and excited grin to be strangely out of place.
When torrential rains began dumping on the roof with a deafening roar and employees instructed folks to step out from under the skylights, it finally occurred to me to whisper a prayer. The roof structure didn't look as though it could withstand the kind of stress and weight of such a heavy downpour. Already I had heard an employee call maintenance to attend a leak over the very active two-way radios.
While I was at it, I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving. I know that if the tornado had come, I would experience the same terror and dread that every survivor describes, if indeed I survived. Still I will probably always rush out in the storms to see if I can get a glimpse of a funnel cloud. The idea of witnessing that kind of power holds me in awe, because I realize it isn't a fraction of the power of God. It is only a small portion of His total creation. Jesus held authority over the winds with a mere spoken word. What power! What awesome might and glory! The word instructs us to fear Him with a reverent fear. And yet at the same time we can approach Him, for unlike the whirlwind, God is merciful.
Praise His name!
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