Natchez, You Have Ten Minutes

Published 12:06am Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thursday morning in Mississippi, I was taking copious notes of Genesis 6:14-16, God’s instructions to Noah on building an ark. With the amount of rain falling and filling the streets, I think we might benefit from such a sturdy boat!

Here in the Delta, I was enjoying an early morning cup of coffee and listening to the rain gently fall when my mom called. She asked if I was following the weather on TV. When I told her no, she turned up the volume on the TV and held the phone to its speaker.

“Natchez, you have 10 minutes. Take cover now!”

I continued to listen as the weatherman reported that a tornado was headed directly for the area where I had lived, where the church I’d pastored was located and where friends still were. Mom and I continued to talk as she reported what the cameras were showing out of Natchez: deep darkness. A few minutes later, the weatherman’s volume increased again.

“Natchez, you have four minutes. Four minutes! Take cover now.”

It was eerie to be on the outside of a storm’s countdown. All I could do was pray that everyone heeded the sirens. All I could do was hope that everything would be OK. Then, suddenly, there was a shift in the weatherman’s voice.

“Something has changed in the last two minutes, folks. The storm is weakening. The tornado warning has been lifted.”

In less than 10 minutes time, disaster had changed to relief. The tornado became just a storm. Anxiety transformed to thanksgiving. I checked in with friends who reported that they were OK, that the rain was lessening.

What I wonder is how long it will take us to forget how bad the storm could have been. How quickly will the loss of control in those 10 minutes fade to our memory?

We all have barely averted storms like these. Think of the number of times we’re driving down the road, distracted and barely avoid running into the car stopped in front of us.

Think of when we’ve lost our balance or tripped over an unseen obstacle, only to find ourselves caught by the quick reactions of our brains and friends close by.

Think of the number of weather near-disasters that have suddenly dissipated like this one.

These are the moments when it’s easy for us to say, “Thank you, God,” in the moment, then to forget what might have been in the next moment.

Throughout scripture, especially as the Israelites journey to the Promised Land, we see people fall into forgetfulness of God’s goodness.

It’s not that the Israelites were ungrateful. It’s that they forgot how bad things could have been without God’s intervention.

Thursday’s tornado warning to Natchez can serve as a wake-up call to us all.

We have more than 10 minutes to remember what matters most. We serve a God who loves us deeply. We serve a God whose mercies never run out. We serve a God who has saved us from eternal disaster. Please, dear friends, especially those of you who endured the storm in Adams County, stop to thank our great God. Then thank Him again. Then thank Him again.

Ask Him to ingrain gratitude in our memories. Let us not forget His deliverance. Let us not forget that we have all been brought from darkness to everlasting Light. Let us not forget.

 

The Rev. Darian E. Duckworth was, until recently, pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Natchez. She is now pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church/Shipman Chapel in Cleveland.