In the eye of the storm...

This is the season of tropical storms.  The storms of life, however, know no particular season, do they?

Are you in the middle of one of life's storms? Or, know someone who is?

Until I was thirty-nine, I cannot say I had ever been through a personal storm. A few rumbles like thunder maybe, but no violent storm.

One Sunday night, however, on the very day my mother and father united with the church where I was pastor, a storm unleashed its wrath, the likes of which changed everything in my life.

I was young minister serving a big church and I had ambitions as big or bigger. My father had just retired from an illustrious ministerial career himself. I loved him deeply and admired him just as much. I realize today that I was in a kind of competition with him, although I was unaware of it at the time. Much of my young ministerial drive found its fuel in my envy of his accomplishments. I wanted to be as successful as he was and, most likely, more so. As a consequence, I was busy at thirty-nine years of age making a name for myself.

Following their retirement, my parents came regularly to the church I was serving and, one Sunday morning, they surprised me and joined. That afternoon, I took a walk around our neighborhood relishing in my accomplishments and enjoying the recognition my parents had just shown me by joining the church. I was at the pinnacle of my career and quite proud of it.

Before sundown that very day, however, my father suffered a massive stroke. Ten days later, I gave the homily at his funeral and, what's particularly ironic, the funeral was held in the very church he had just joined on the day he suffered a stroke.

The storm.

In the months that followed his passing, my personal and professional life unraveled. I tried to help my mother cope with her grief, even as I muddled my way through my own. Neither of us did very well. Within a year of his passing, I left the ministry, never to return. I went through a divorce, too, and changed careers.

Everything changed.

Storms do that to you, you know.

I was angry. Angry at Dad for leaving so suddenly; angry at God for taking him; angry at the Church for its typically glib explanations for life's personal storms - "Well, I know you're sad, but God had a reason for taking your Dad!" "It was your Dad's time to go!" "God took him because He needed more angels in heaven."

"What kind of empty explanations are these?" It is shallow, narrow theological nonsense still preached in many churches that explains the widespread and growing departure from organized religion or the Church by millions of sincere Christians.

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