A few months ago I was interviewed by a reporter from NPR on the subject of evacuating during a hurricane. Bizarre, right? She contacted the church and said that she would be in our area interviewing “community leaders” on the subject of mandatory vs. voluntary evacuations, and would I agree to be interviewed? I was so thrilled to know that NPR considers local pastors to be community leaders, that of course I said yes. She was interested in my congregation’s response to hurricane warnings and whether we shelter in place or flee.
I told her that I have observed my people “hunkering down” if their families have been here for generations, while folks like me, who moved here from another area, tend to evacuate. My interview won’t air until the next time a hurricane is headed our way, in which case I will probably never hear it, since I will either be 1. gone or 2. without electricity.
We are officially in hurricane season here on the Outer Banks, which will run through November 30th. The beauty of our daily surroundings on this little sand bar will go from unspeakable views to untenable conditions in a matter of hours. Everyone on the island will be faced with two choices. Hunkering down means not leaving your property and risking total destruction, flooding, loss of power for days, downed power lines, and possibly death. Evacuation means abandoning your property, bunking in with your inland relatives or paying for a hotel for an unforeseen number of days or weeks, the inconvenience of not being at home, and the possibility that you won’t be allowed back over the bridge for a very long period of time. That last thing is the most troublesome. Once you leave, the bridges close indefinitely, and you may not be able come home for days or weeks after the storm has passed. Not an easy choice. The stress is immeasurable.
Life often brings other kinds of stressful storms that bring us to the same decision point. Should I stay in this unhappy marriage, or flee? Should I do one more round of debilitating chemo, or stop here? Should I bail my addicted daughter out one more time, or walk away? Do I continue to engage my rebellious son, or stand firm on my house rules?
Hunkering down is a period of waiting something out. It requires patience, courage, a willingness to endure further damage before things are set right, and fortitude. Sometimes the only way something can ever be repaired is by refusing to give up.
Fleeing is a self-protective response to damage that is unstoppable. Fleeing can be the only way out when the winds and rising waters are sure to engulf you, pull you under, and not let go. Fleeing is a pro-active way of taking your life back and moving forward into a future with hope.
In either case, remember this: