A Shelter from the Storm

by Jonathan Haefs

I sat at my desk typing frantically. I wanted so badly to finish up the days work and head home…after all…

…it was snowing!

Snow in Alabama! This is not a very regular event, and I wanted to have a fun-filled snow-day with my kiddos like any dad should. I knew that sledding, snow-ball fights, and snow-man construction awaited me at home…and so my fingers put my average “words-per-minute” to shame as they flew across the keyboard.

I would get up every now and then to peer out the window at the growing mass of white. This was going to be a snow to remember.

IMG_8218Then I saw it.

A car had pulled into the our church parking lot and was simply sitting there as traffic backed up on the road with all the motorists trying to get home. I didn’t think much of it, until the next time I peered out the window and the car was still there…then again…and again.

After an hour, I figured I needed to go down and see what was happening. Never-mind actually looking at the weather forecast…ain’t nobody got time for that!

I wanted so badly to pretend the car wasn’t there, hop in my vehicle, and go home to my family. Something told me that if I talked with whoever was in that car I would be opening a can of worms and stuck where I was for a lot longer. Still, I walked up to the car and knocked on the window.

I was met with a smile from a kind lady who told me the road conditions were simply beyond her driving ability and she was waiting for her husband to come pick her up. I offered for her to come and wait in our lobby, secretly hoping she would refuse, and she thanked me…and followed me into our comfortably heated space.

I now found myself stuck, frustrated, and not feeling the least bit hospitable. I went back to my office thinking that if I had to be there I might as well get some work done. I would come down on occasion to see if her ride had arrived only to discover quite the opposite.

IMG_8229More people seeking shelter from the storm were filing into the lobby.

The reality of the situation began to dawn on me as I had conversations with those who found themselves stranded.

Birmingham was shutting down!

The “light-dusting” forecast was a slight miscalculation (I love our meteorologists all the same) and iced streets bring an unprepared southern city to a screeching halt…literally.

I-65, 280, and many other streets looked like a scene out of summer-zombie block buster. Cars littered the landscape, simply abandoned as people sought the basic necessities of life…food and shelter.

For a little while, I continued to throw my personal pity party, lamenting the fun my family was enjoying at home without me. This snow might be a problem for everyone else, but not for me! Home was within walking distance and the only thing standing in my way was all these people in need! I know this may sound heartless, but even I’m a selfish human being with a sinful heart that is all too often content to be self-centered. These people shouldn’t be my problem…none of this was my fault…why should I pay the price to provide shelter for them.

And then in the mid-thought my mind froze and my heart melted because of one thought.

dali-christ-of-st-john-of-the-crossThe Gospel.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

The storm brought about by my sin should have been no one’s problem but my own. I should have been left alone to freeze amidst my failures, but Jesus emptied himself. He didn’t just shelter me from the storm within the fortress of his righteousness, he took my place out in the cold. The love of God was lavished on me in Christ and I was saved from a storm of my own making.

Suddenly, I found my heart filled up with a vision of the glory of Jesus and pouring itself out in love toward those sheltering within the walls of SVCC.  For the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross…and that joy was that we may find our everlasting joy in the glory of God!

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, TO THE GLORY of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

Now, I wanted to shelter these people for the joy set before me, namely, having the opportunity to point them toward the ultimate shelter of love found in Christ!

IMG_8207Over the next 48 hours we had the pleasure and joy of housing around 25 people at SVCC. I didn’t get to talk with all of them at length, but I was able to share food, laughs, stories with most of them…and many of our conversations centered on the Gospel.

May God open our eyes everyday to the reality that people around us are seeking shelter from the storm of their own sin, shame, guilt, etc.  May we not be so consumed with our own lives that we shut out those seeking refuge. May we invite them into our lives and to safety under the mighty wings of our Lord.

I don’t know what effect those two days will have on the lives of those who found shelter at SVCC, and the effect is ultimately up to the Lord, but my prayer is that God would bring them to find ultimate shelter from every storm in him through Jesus Christ our Lord.