We sat in the school hallway with 30 other people, waiting for the tornado.
I tried to keep conversation light to mask my own worry. Anderson played a board game nearby with a friend. Maggie watched Frozen with a group of girls huddled around a tablet screen. But Ellen stayed by my side and asked the hard questions.
“Is the tornado close?” she whispered. I put my arm around her as we leaned against the wall. “It’s about 10 minutes away. You don’t have to worry. We are in a safe place. We are in the safest place we can be. ”
“Will it hit us?” She asked.
“I don’t know, sweetie, but we are in a safe place if it does.”
“Mama, do people die in tornados?”
In the 25 zillion parenting books I’d read, not a single book had a chapter on Speaking Truth During Tornados. I was not going to lie to my child, and yet I didn’t want to multiply her fears.
“Sometimes that happens, sweetheart. But we are in the safest place we can be right now.” I kept using the word safe hoping it would make her feel safe.
The wind howled. The rain pelted. And my husband walked past us, a grim look on his face. Ellen and I watched as he wrapped an extension cord around the handles of the double doors at the end of the hallway – the doors that could fly open if a tornado hit.
I felt the muscles tighten in Ellen’s little body.
“Are we going to die?” she whispered, her voice trembling in my ear.
Fear. Pure fear.
These circumstances were totally out of my control, and my child knew it. She immediately felt alone and helpless, and I could identify with that.
It is not unusual to feel alone when we feel helpless.
God knows what it is like to live in this broken world. He knows that we will face circumstances that we can’t change or control. And He knows we need Him to remind us that we are not alone.
Do not fear, for I am with you. Isaiah 41:10
His Word gives us assurance of His presence. We are not alone, because He is with us.
I did not want my child to feel alone, because we were not alone or abandoned.
The truth was that the tornado could hit. We could be injured or die. And God would still be good. He would still use it in our lives for something beautiful.
But how could I explain this to my 6 year-old who was gripped with fear, when I don’t even fully understand it myself? I’ve seen God bring beauty from bad things in my life. I’ve seen Him work in people’s hearts through the most difficult and horrible circumstances. I don’t understand it, but I trust His hand.
I pulled Ellen into my lap, held her, and said, “I’m not sure what will happen. But I know that God will do what is best, and I trust Him.”
The tornado went over us without touching down and Ellen and I whispered prayers of thankfulness for His protection.
God did protect us that day. But even if He had allowed the tornado to hit, it wouldn’t have been because He took His Hand away from us. As His children, we are secure in the palm of His Hand. He is with us.
I’m still not sure how to convey this complicated truth to my children. Maybe it’s enough to teach them to trust Him, because He is with us, even when we are sitting in the dark.