You could just feel it in the air—this was a night to take the tornado warnings seriously.
Our family of five grew to a gathering of eight by the time the first alerts were issued…our storm cellar in the garage was stocked, swept, and ready for action.
Several tornadoes already were on the ground, and one was barreling towards our side of town. So it was time to crowd into our 8-man shelter, fully testing its limits (especially with one of our guests being a terrified toddler).
With one hand on the shelter lid and one on the radio, we were about to seal ourselves in when our son got a call from his neighbor friend: “Can he come over?”
“Sure,” I thought. “We can make room for one more.”
But then he clarified, “It will be all four of them.”
I quickly ran the numbers—12?! We already had kids on our laps, a lanky teen crouched on the floor and an inconsolable two-year-old. I just couldn’t picture how we would wedge two more adults and two teens in our sweltering underground metal box.
Then, with words that still haunt me today, I asked: “Can you see if they can ask our other neighbor? Maybe they will have more room.”
My mind’s eyes couldn’t see the fit. My husband’s heart, though, was rightly fixed.
“Of course they can come,” he calmly said. “We’ll make ourselves fit.”
Blessedly, the storm dodged us before we had to seal all 12 of us inside. We ended up just enjoying a pleasant evening visiting outside until the electricity came back on.
But that experience later pierced my heart. How could I have even thought, “No”? How could I only look with my eyes, and not my heart?
I prayed for forgiveness. And I prayed for the wisdom on how to apply the lesson I was supposed to learn.
My answer came when I read the book, When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany, by Erwin W. Lutzer.
Just as storms swirled around our family that evening, fierce economic storms engulfed Germany during the Weimar Republic era before Hitler’s rise to power.
The economy was in utter collapse after World War I. People literally needed wheel barrows, not wallets, to bring money to the store to buy every-day essentials, IF they were even available. Unemployment was off the charts. Crime and lawlessness were rampant.
What better climate for a strong man—promising food, prosperity and national pride—to seize power?
In the early 1930s, Hitler seemed nothing short of a miracle worker in the eyes of most Germans. “Christians saw him as an answer to their prayers,” Dr. Lutzer writes, adding that some even substituted wall photos of Christ for Hitler.
So they lost a little freedom? So some of that hatred towards Jews, and others, was a little uncomfortable? So thousands of pastors were whisked off to prisons for preaching views contrary to the regime? They had food, hope.
If you were worried about how to feed and protect your children, what compromises would you make?
It’s so easy—with the 20-20 hindsight of history—to blame the Germans for getting duped into a tyrannical, utterly evil regime. We can self-righteously think, “Oh, we never would have sat idly by.”
Really? If our children were starving… Really? If our family risked being whisked away in the night to one of those rumored death camps… Really?
When the storms in life rage, we as sinful humans tend to think with our minds—not our hearts, often with answers that are ungodly. I did.
My personal lesson from that experience—and my “take away” from the book—is that I must think through in advance how to handle such life-and-death decisions. In the heat of a moment, I might react before praying…or even thinking clearly. If I had prayerfully considered my decision in advance, then my response in that split second would have been second nature.
As unpleasant as it seems, I make myself play “war games” in my mind—different scenarios when my faith and compassion could be tested: As a mom, how far would I go to protect my children? How much would I risk to openly proclaim my faith? Would I risk my family?
I dare say that if some of those early 20th century Germans had prayerfully considered such questions--BEFORE the storms raged--then they may have felt the Lord’s courage to stand on their principles and honor Him, no matter what the cost.
Read Part 1 of this series here.