The recent tornadoes in my home state of Oklahoma and elsewhere have reminded me of how they can be a great test of faith, and of something that happened to me when I was in the Fourth Grade.
Because my dad was in WWII, and shell shocked from the experience, he had lost his own faith in God. He wanted to protect me from similar heartaches by not allowing any kind of religious practices within our home. I would be spanked if I was caught reading Bible stories, and was not allowed to befriend other children who were Christians as a result.
I did not even know how to pray, since prayer was not something that occurred regularly in my home, but my mom did teach me to say silent bedtime prayers in my head.
Somehow though, I had a Bible storybook that my grandmother had given me for Christmas one year and I would read it and think about many of the stories I had read often. And in my little ten year old mind, I didn't see what the big deal was to my dad.
That day in May of 1982, I was on the playground swings, when the tornado siren sounded. This of course scared me. Living in tornado alley means that tornado drills are routine, and that we were trained to evacuate to a safe location in an orderly fashion. I do not remember how I ended up being separated from the rest of the class and not going to the music room to assume the fetal hands over head position, but I was and found myself under my desk in my classroom.
In hindsight that was not the safest place for me. My particular classroom, as were all of the others at T.J. Melton Elementary School were all on outside walls and had huge vertical windows. I could see out the window in the direction the storm was heading from my vantage point under my desk.
It suddenly dawned on me that my house was in the projected path of this storm. Once again I was not thinking of my own safety, but worried immensely about my mom, dad, and brother who were at home. I think it scared me more that I was separated from them, and was not with them,than the tornado itself.
I started asking God to make sure my family was kept safe from the storm. The house we lived in at that time was about one hundred years old, did not have a cellar, interior room, or shelter of any kind and that worried me. I knew if a tornado hit the house, my family would not make it.
I think that is the first time I ever really prayed. It was an act of desperation but it was a prayer nonetheless.
The threat passed and nothing major happened other than a few limbs off of trees. My teacher, Mr. Turley, was not happy with me. He scolded me for not staying with the rest of the group. I still cannot remember how that even happened but I was glad the tornado threat was over once again.
School dismissed for the day about thirty minutes later and as I walked out of the building toward my dad's 1950 Dodge Coronet, I looked up and saw a rainbow!
I recalled the story of Noah and how God produced a rainbow as a symbol that he would never destroy the earth with water ever again, and took this as a personal sign to myself. The rainbow to me, was a symbol that my prayer got answered in regards to keeping my family safe. I knew as I got into the car, that I would be going home to my house, still in one piece, to a mom, and baby brother who were also alive and well. God was telling me that He was promising to keep them safe simply because I had asked.
It was the first time I felt God had ever spoken to me as well.
Over the years, no matter where I have been, and there has been a tornado threat, I go to shelter like I am supposed to, and stay prepared just in case. I have to wonder however, if there is a deeper reason for the fact that there have been numerous tornadoes all around me, yet, just about all of them stay away. I like to think it's God keeping His promise to me. I do not test this or tempt it. It just is.
Other family members stay safe as well. I have since joined a well-known organized religion, and call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my church family. I pray regularly and often an I know that God answers ALL prayers. That one got answered with a colorful acknowledgement, but most of the time the acknowledgement is more subtle than that. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is "not now". I have learned the hard way that often, it's not answered in ways we expect.
But when my Facebook friends and family I keep in touch with through the popular social networking website tell me to be safe, I always feel that I will be in these situations because there is no safer place than Heavenly Father's hands.