“It was a dark and stormy night, ...” as Snoopy always said when he started out to write a novel while pecking away at his battered typewriter atop his doghouse. That, by the way, has been described as the worst beginning a novel could have. But, as a matter of fact, it was a dark and stormy night.
It happened a while back up in Huckleberry Knob, where all the women are beautiful and the children are strong. It was a real storm. High winds, the lightning dancing in the distance and lighting up the room in flash-bulb style. And the rain — it came in sheets, pounding so hard at the windows that I thought it was hailstones at times. Even the raccoons decided to forego their nightly patrols through the neighborhood. Ray the weatherman had warned us. But it was a dozy. In the midst of all this, about 3 a.m. — 2:55 a.m. to be exact — our front doorbell rang. It was so weird that it took a moment for the fact that it was the doorbell to register.
I couldn’t imagine who — or what — might be at our door at 3 a.m. in the midst of a driving storm. Adrenaline pumping, I leaped out of bed and ran into the closet for clothes.
The only reasons I could think of for a visitor at the door at this ungodly hour in this storm were terrifying: a neighbor had dropped dead (or died in his sleep) and a distraught widow was standing there in the storm at my door; someone had crashed into a tree on the way home and had limped up to our door (even though nobody comes by our house on the way home) and other dark scenarios filled my mind.
I dashed for the front door, yanked it open, took a face full of wind and rain, and stared into the dark. Nobody there.
Nobody there? How can this be? After I retrieved my wits, I began punching the doorbell. It kept on ringing. I shut the door and stared at the box high on the wall, donging away merrily. Several minutes later, just when I had decided to go downstairs and pull the electrical breaker, the doorbell stopped ringing on its own.
I suppose it was a close lightning strike that started it ringing. But whatever reason, it ruined my night. I lay in bed thinking about it for a long time. For some reason, the incident seemed so weird, so strange. I guess it was the lightning, the driving rain, the jumping to the conclusion that some poor soul was in deep trouble and standing at my door.
Anyhow, it set the old sermon machine running for the rest of the night. You know, in the book of Revelation we have the picture of Jesus standing outside the door, knocking for entrance. And there are a lot of folks who will suddenly find him at their door in the midst of a storm, or in the middle of the night. For some folks it will be the COVID-19 virus or a heart attack or a car wreck that brings them face to face with Jesus in a moment of storm.
For others, it will be some non-fatal good or bad crisis in life — an illness, the birth of a child, the death of a friend or family member, that will thrust them into a meeting with Jesus. And that meeting may lead to a wonderful relationship both in this world and the next. You know, most folks who come to hear the Gospel as adults come through a crisis of some sort, whether good or bad.
I suppose the word to carry away is this: don’t wait for a storm to make you aware of your mortality; to make you aware of the truth of the Gospel; to bring you face to face with Jesus. And, don’t wait for a storm to bring a neighbor to your door — be a friend, a helper of others, even when the sun is shining.
Earl Davis’ column “Raccoon Theology” appears biweekly in The Blowing Rocket. Dr. Davis is an artist and pastor of the Middle Fork Baptist Church (streaming on Facebook) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.