A Parable of Preparation
By happy circumstance (and the generosity of my parents and in-laws), my family and I were able to visit both the eastern and western seaboards of the United States this summer. In June, my wife’s family gathered on the North Carolina coast in the town of Oak Island. In early August, it was my parents’ turn to pull together a family reunion of sorts in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Both towns are amazing places of natural beauty, sand, and surf. Even so, despite both being attractive seasonal, tourist-reliant vacation spots, the two are remarkably dissimilar.
Oak Island, for much of the summer, is sun soaked and a swimmer’s paradise. Cannon Beach, in the Pacific Northwest, is often cloud covered and cool. Unless you brought your wetsuit, swimming is only for the brave or foolish.
Oak Island gets hit by tropical storms and hurricanes on a regular basis. The rental properties along the shoreline are on stilts to avoid the all-too-frequent storm surges, and having the Intracoastal Waterway running in parallel on the leeward side for much of the beach’s length means all visitors must come to and from the waterfront by way of just three bridges; the town has learned to be very clear about its evacuation plans.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian paid a visit, knocking out power and forcing evacuation of the beachfront visitors. A few trees were toppled, and the main drag was flooded. The local car wash had part of its roof torn off by the wind. (The website for the Town of Oak Island has a whole section of info of how to prepare, ride out, and clean up after a hurricane.)
In the end, it was a glancing blow for the community. Communities further up the coast got it much worse and, with top winds of just 50 mph, this 2019 storm won’t be remembered by residents of Oak Island as anything special.
Cannon Beach, on the other hand, has a wide beach with high dunes, and storm surge is not a regular occurrence. The beach itself is not much more than a stone’s throw from Ocean Drive (the main drag), and the town itself, with its galleries, coffee shops, and wide variety of restaurants, is most of the attraction. Visitors can wend their way to and from the main drag via a great selection of back roads and alternate routes.
The Great Coastal Gale of December 1 – 3, 2007, is the last “great” storm to hit Cannon Beach. Trees were blown down or snapped in half. Power was out for about 50 hours, and the tourists who didn’t get out ahead of time had to stay in a local church until outside help could reach them. Before that, it was the 1962 Columbus Day Storm that folks remembered in Cannon Beach. The 2007 event was (and still is) the only time the region has come under a hurricane warning. Towns to the north flooded and suffered much more damage and some loss of life. People there still refer to it as “The Great Gale” and local media memorialized the event’s 10th anniversary. ( Here’s a brief video documenting some of the damage.)
Preparation is an amazing thing.
Oak Island has had numerous major storms in the past decade. There has been a tremendous amount of damage, to be sure, but the combination of prior planning and homes made to withstand the onslaught of the wind, rain, and storm surge have thus far meant the residents have bounced back quickly.
Cannon Beach still looks back to that singular event of December, 2007, with a mixture of awe and nostalgia.
This Sunday, Pastor Henry Coates will preach from Luke 6:46-49 about the parable of the house built on a solid foundation. Like the stilts — based on deep concrete footers — under the homes on Oak Island, we can be tied to something (someone, really) that will help us weather life’s storms, which are sure to come.
I am struck by the active role the man building a house plays in the process of this parable. He “dug deeply and laid the foundation on a rock.” I’ve walked with Jesus for almost 40 years, and yet I still need to be reminded, regularly, that my faith involves activity on my part if I am to be held secure to Jesus amid the storms. I am saved by faith, but I can play a major role in making sure my saving faith receives all the protective, intelligent maintenance it requires.
This summer, I swam far out from shore in the waters of the Atlantic in June, and stuck my big toe in the cold surf of the Pacific in August. Whether you find yourself in up above your head or just sticking a toe in, may the firm foundation of the Love of Jesus keep you anchored to the solid rock.
FPCE Communications Coordinator