The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
The days are thick and windless and unusually warm in the morning. Humidity veils the sun’s sparkle and casts the whole world in air that glows, as if somewhere down the road one could find a lake of hazy steam. Some days in early summer, every single afternoon sky telegraphs an evening storm; morning stillness threatens, as if dawn were only a cease-fire.
In the atmosphere, things build all day long until gray-green thunderheads mass like a mountain range mirage rising slowly in the west, rolling upward into huge raised fists. It’s just a matter of when and where and how violent.
The only way to live with tornadoes is to respect them from the moment they suggest they could be brewing somewhere far away in a swirl of angry clouds.
One night, years ago, in our old house, we rode out a storm in a cellar built years ago—six inches of cement for a ceiling. Plenty of rain had fallen that spring, and the water table inched up so high the hardware man joked there were only two kinds of people in town: the ones with water in their basements and liars.
In our storm cellar water stood a couple of inches deep, but there we sat—my wife with her robe rolled up above her knees, holding our daughter, her eyes wide as pocket watches in the dim glare of a naked forty-watt bulb set in the concrete wall. My pants legs were rolled up above my calves like peddle-pushers, and we sat barefooted, ankle deep in rain water while outside the wind swept over like a passover plague.
There was no tornado that night; we heard later that somewhere out on a farm a grain bin had been flattened. But even near-misses have ways of finding a place forever in wordless memories.
Here on the edge of the Plains, you just know when tornadoes might visit. You can feel it all day long, even when the sky is clear, the sun shining. Some kind of potent atmospheric mix sends shivers up the spine.
It’s not a tornado that Asaph coaxes from his memory in these verses, but what he’ll never forget—and what he wants to rehearse again and again—is the perfect storm, a potent cocktail of atmospheric events that must have shaken the Israelites to the bone. There they were, the only home they’d known left far behind, when suddenly this monster storm arises. They’re miles from cement ceilings, all alone on the plains.
Such storms scare people spitless. This one—the one Moses conjured himself—could not have been any different. Pharoah and his minions are out there charging, a monster storm is brewing. Moses stands up, arms raised, and just like that, the waters of the
Red Sea part, creating a dry
Is it any wonder Asaph wants to bring that all back? In his anxious sleeplessness, his worry and guilt, he reminds himself to remember the story, that incredible story when God was there with them, miraculously, on the shore.
He wants to remember that absolutely perfect storm.
Remember that? How can we forget?