There is a lot more context to the following story than I really have time to give here, so let’s just say that we’re picking it up midway through it. I’ll elaborate as needed.
Moving day arrived once again. My wife, four kiddos, and I had been staying a few days in our camper in Altus, OK, to make sure everything still worked. It had been over two months since last we stayed in our little home, but everything still worked fine. We were able to nab our favorite spot at this particular park, and it was good to be back in our space. The lone “problem” with this spot this time was that it had been raining for a few days, and the ground was a little soft. We were still a tad nervous from our previous experience, but we were still confident with being able to get out of it. No big deal.
On moving day, we loaded up in good time with a few sprinkles here and there. We pulled out and were on the road to Austin, TX. This was truly a smooth transition. We had the route mapped out, and we were on our way. The office at the new park closed at 6pm, but we expected to be there sometime between 4 and 4:30. Again, no big deal.
Then Gullywasher Gus happened.
I remember saying to the son in the truck with me, pointing to the sky, “You see all that black? I’m afraid that’s exactly where we’re headed.” Sure enough, a couple of miles later, we turned south and aimed directly for the center of the storm. Looking back, had I known how bad it was going to be, I probably would have pulled over and waited it out. But I really didn’t know how strong the storm was, how long it was going to last, nor how far it spread. I wanted to get to where we were going by a certain time, so we kept on truckin’.
Rewind just a bit: Son #3 was in Great White Hauler pulling our 5th-wheel camper with me at the front of the caravan, sons #s 1 and 2 were in Xavier behind us, and Bridget and only daughter were in Big Hauler bringing up the rear. Son #1, though almost 18, still hadn’t had a ton of driving experience, especially on the highway. This was our caravan.
The rain started light, but it didn’t stay light very long. The windshield wipers went from intermittent to full speed ahead within a couple of minutes. Sheets of water rushed over the road wave after wave. Lightening flashed and thunder exploded seemingly all around us. The rain and wind buffeted the truck and the camper. I could barely make out the tail lights of the vehicle in front of me. Mile after mile, cars pulled over to the side of the road, and we crawled along at 25 to 30 mph. I gripped the steering wheel, leaned forward, and started having serious conversations with the Lord.
My first concern, be it right or wrong, was the camper and the truck. Could this wind blow me over? Is there a tornado forecast with this storm? Can the big camper hydroplane? How dangerous is this situation? My next concern was Caleb. I knew he didn’t have any experience driving in these kinds of weather conditions, and I also knew a couple of the tires on his vehicle needed to be replaced soon. Were he and Joshua going to be safe? I was concerned for Bridget, too, obviously, but I knew she could handle the situation. She had the experience and know-how to be safe.
“Lord, this is pretty bad. Do we need to pull over?”
“But I can barely see! I can only imagine how Caleb and Bridget are doing. Are You sure we don’t need to pull over?”
After a few more exchanges like these, we kept going. No matter how slow we had to go, we kept going. No matter how hard the rain fell, the wind roared, or the thunder clapped, we kept going. Even when I didn’t think we were ever going to get out of the storm, we kept going. Even when it seemed everybody else stopped, we kept going. Why? Because God had said to.
Could I have gotten it wrong? Sure. I could’ve. But Bridget never called me to say, “Hey! What in the world are you doing? Pull over!” Joshua (son #2) never called to say, “Dad, Caleb doesn’t want to keep driving in this. Can we pull over?” No other anything said anything to me about pulling over. God had said, “Keep going.” So we did.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, but what was probably more like 30 to 45 minutes, the rain stopped. The wind subsided. The storm relented and moved on. We weren’t being denied our destination. The Lord had kept us going, and He had kept us safe while doing so.
I can hear the argument now: Couldn’t that storm have been God saying to stop? Yes, it could’ve been. We have stories of when He used storms to stop us in our tracks and cause us to change course – life course – in major ways! But, in living by His divine life, which dwells inside of us, we discerned that this storm wasn’t Him trying to stop us. This storm was something else. And He wanted us to keep going through it. We don’t take a one-time event and make it the pattern by which to abide for the rest of our lives. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have gone to Austin that day. But, by abiding in a living and active God, we seek His mind daily, moment by moment. In so doing, we knew we were supposed to keep going.
When we stopped for lunch, we all laughed and awed over what had just occurred. Bridget and I compared notes from our separate conversations with the Lord, and you know what? The Lord was telling her the same thing He was telling me: keep going. That’s why she never called me and told me to pull over. She knew we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. Now, she had called Joshua (we don’t like for Caleb to be on the phone while driving – even though we are) while we were in the middle of Gus, and told the boys to pull over if ever they felt unsafe. Those boys understood they had permission to pull over, but they kept going, too.
While we were certainly slowed down by the storm (it really wasn’t named Gullywasher Gus, I just wanted to intimate how big of a storm it felt to us), we still proceeded and made it to our destination 10 minutes before they closed. Plenty of time! The Lord’s timing is always perfect, even when it doesn’t seem so to us.
After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to back in to a rather narrow spot (we were exhausted after all), the park manager came out and had us move into a pull-through spot. We were so thankful for that. After finally setting up, going into town to get some groceries and dinner, we crashed. We felt like we had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but now we were lying down in the green pastures beside the quiet waters. And the Lord restored our soul.
And by His life, we keep going.