I suppose it was a Saturday afternoon. It could have easily been a weekday in early summer. Hair clippings clumped around the base of my dad’s barber chair and it was my habit to grab a broom and sweep from time to time. (A habit highly encouraged by my dad).
The barber shop had three, huge store-front windows. They seemed particularly large to an eleven year old who had to clean them. The sunshine across Evans Avenue was long gone. The air was peculiarly static. Folks outside moved purposefully to their vehicles, casting weary glances at an ominous gathering of clouds.
A storm was coming. It had been a topic of conversation that afternoon in the barber shop.
In Oklahoma, there is often a strange stillness and weightiness to the air before a storm. We have “thunder-boomers” and tornados; it’s not a storm unless it affects you personally. There weren’t sophisticated weather reports and no such things as Doppler radar. We stepped out front to survey the color of the sky, the smell of the air and checked horizons for wall clouds. It had grown too dark to tell very much, and it was still the middle of the day.
I don’t remember how the storm front arrived; I am very familiar with hundreds of Oklahoma storm fronts since. I do remember looking across the street at the large trees behind the Malone Ford Dealership. The tops of trees were starting to whip violently. This was turning into the scariest storm of my young life. There was blowing debris, the building creaked, and the windows actually bowed. I was terrified!
As my dad and another man calmly watched, I slipped closer and closer to the door that accessed the back of the barber shop. My heart was pounding and when I saw the tin roof of a small out-building go flying down the street, I had had enough.
In the back of the barber shop was dark and noisy. I found no comfort there. I was losing all hope and the terror of the wind, driving rain and cracks of thunder overwhelmed me. So I did it; I PRAYED.
“Oh dear God if you will please get me out of this I will do better. God please! I will stop telling that one joke and I will be good. God, if you will deliver me and not kill me I will pray to You even if I don’t need anything. Oh me! I mean, Amen.”
The storm subsided after a few more minutes and when I peeked out the door and emerged from the darkness, thankfully items were no longer flying down the street.
I was alive.
The odd recollection from that incident is this. Just as soon as my fear went away, so did my need for God. “Aw heck,” I thought to myself. “These storms always go away; I don’t think God probably heard my prayer anyway.”
And God Smiled.
Next week, my second deal with God.