At Pawleys Island SC, there is a legend that is oft-told on this sandy sliver of a barrier island. It is said that when the Gray Man appears on the shore, a hurricane is coming.
The sandy dunes, angel oaks, salt marshes, and lazy rivers of the Carolina Low Country and her people have endured hurricanes for as long as legends have been carried forward. Imagine those days when there was no hurricane forecasting, no planes flying into the Eye, no evacuation routes, no grocery stores, and no eye in the sky sending down satellite images. Folks just looked up to the firmament and watched the tides, as elders told tales of storms gone by. During our several years of summer days spent at Pawleys, we too rode out a few bands of tropical deluges. We added our own stories to the low country legends. Slowly we came to know that throughout the generations, the storms rise and fall like summer fevers as people get out of the way.
On the wall in our dining room in Maine, I keep a framed photograph of our sea view at Pawleys. It is signed and titled in pencil by the photographer in his own hand, The Greyman Cometh. At mealtimes, I gaze at this image which mystically captures our family beach memories of finding safe harbor through our own life-changing storms. From this distance of time and miles, I can see that it was a series of southern storm surges which carried us safely to our own spot of the rocky seashore in Maine.
Often I stood on this same spot on Pawleys Island as I contemplated the breath-taking power of the inevitable. I came to just be by-the-sea carrying some desperate questions: Where will we go now? What will we do? Where will I find the strength to keep going? The answers only flowed in as I kept moving forward day by day.
As time passes, I’m slowly learning that all we can do is trust that the sands of time are always shifting as the storm tides rise and fall. The grassy dunes in my photograph got completely washed away and then replenished a couple of years ago. We can’t stop the inevitable, yet we can ride the waves. “This too shall pass,” we whisper, both in good times and in scary times. Jesus will surely calm us through all of the raging storms, come what may. He teaches us over and over that Fear Not is both our promise and our proclamation of hope.
Our sea-faring hearts are with all souls in transit from The Strand and beyond, looking also toward those dear ones in the Carolina mountains who are preparing shelter from the howling winds, surging sea, raging rivers, falling trees, and the deluge of flooding rains. In solidarity with our loving Christ, we pray with and for all the saints who are bracing for yet another life-changing storm. Together we sing that in the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.