Lessons From Hurricane Florence | The Storm Drain That Saved Our Home

Our home backs up to College Acres Baptist Church, a largish church with quite a bit of paved parking that drains to a retention pond just behind our home. Although the frontside of Hurricane Florence only produced five inches of rain, the retention pond was full and it appeared that their drainage system was not removing any of the standing water.

As the water began to backup, it flooded an undeveloped lot beside our home and subsequently poured into our side yard. As the day wore on and the rain continued, water began to encroach our air conditioning units and crawlspace.

To help redirect the water, I borrowed a sump pump from a neighbor and dug a small trench between the church’s drainage easement and the stormwater drain for our neighborhood. For the time being, everything seemed to be under control.

Then, all hell broke loose.

The Storm Drain

Around 10pm on Saturday night, my wife woke me up and said it had been raining for hours. I threw on a jacket, grabbed a flashlight, and headed toward our backyard. That’s when I stepped off of our back porch into standing water.

I quickly flashed the light toward our garage and could see that water was inches from coming in. As I sloshed toward the back of our property, the water kept getting deeper. By the time I stepped off of our driveway, the water was calf high.

Layers and layers of debris covered the stormwater drain. I clinched the flashlight in my teeth and began clawing at the sticks, leaves and pinecones blocking the water’s retreat.

Standing on the grate, I franticly looked across the trench I had dug to the church parking lot. Three feet of water covered the entire area. I could tell by the submerged trashcan that had tipped onto its side. The only place for all of that water to go was the drain beneath my feet. And, it was still raining.

No matter how fast I pulled the debris away, more followed. Sticks were hitting me in the leg and I was certain that a snake would come slithering through at any moment, but I knew I had to keep this grate clear. It felt like I was on the frontline of a battle—me against a torrent of water. If the drain clogged, water would surely invade my home.

The receding water created a suction underneath my feet. It was working, but there was a lot of water and it was pulling everything the storm had blown into the yard down onto the drain.

Tornado Warning

Around 11pm on Saturday night, our cellphones went haywire. Apparently, cell companies have allowed a warning system to activate on your device during an emergency. My wife looked down at her phone:


My wife, Liz, rushed to the backdoor and began screaming my name. Because of the wind and rain, I couldn’t hear her. She was terrified to get out in the storm, but she was even more terrified that I was outside, alone, with no knowledge of the worsening conditions.

She ran to the back of our driveway looking for my flashlight against the dark of night. To her shock, I was nowhere to be found. Had I been washed away? Had a tree fallen and trapped me? She panicked and raced to the front of our home looking for my flashlight against the howling backdrop of the wind and rain.

“God, where is he!” She screamed.

As she made her way around front, she saw something beside our home. A faint light against the blackness. I had been digging another trench in the front yard to help the water receded into our street as well. When Liz saw me, she yelled, “Matt! There’s a tornado warning!”

I couldn’t quite make out her words, but I ran into our home and we huddled together in our closet.

A Moment of Clarity

After a few hours the tornado warnings subsided, but the rain continued. Around 2am, I checked on the water situation and noticed that the yard was inundated.

I waded back to the storm drain to find that the water was deeper than before. The drain had clogged again. Round two of removing debris began. For another hour I stood on that grate and kept the water flowing through the drain and away from our home.

Although the world around me was in utter chaos, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. As I cleared debris from the drain, I had a powerful vision. It was as if the drain represented a person—a person who was covered with debris. The obstructions kept the living water of God’s goodness from freely flowing into their life.

Are you living a life that is clogged by debris?

That’s a tough question to answer, but one that is essential to growth. In order to grow, in order to move forward, we have to remove the things that are blocking the flow of water. Too often, we feel like growth is about addition. In reality, growth is about subtraction.

What obstacles are blocking you from the growth and free-flowing water you desire?

The Abundant Life

The morning after my experience on the storm drain, I learned that more than fifteen inches of water had fallen. And I’m grateful to say that we only sustained minor water intrusion to our home and our air conditioning units. The storm drain, once freed of its debris, was able to do what it was created to do.

That’s my prayer for you—freedom from the things that keep you from experiencing the life He’s created you to live and do the work you’ve been created to do.

You were created to be a conduit of God’s goodness in the world. There may be moments when water trickles through the grate, but rarely do we fully open up and let God’s power flow in and through us. The spiritual life, the abundant life we were created for, is a life where God’s love flows through us and into the lives of those around us. If you’re being blocked and restricted by distractions and debris, you’ll never experience all that He has for you.

In most cases, the debris represents our career, our relationships, our toxic thought patterns or our own limited understanding. The bottom line is, we have to get honest about doing the difficult work of removing it. As we choose to remove the obstructions, we receive more.

Today, I challenge you to do the brave work of removing debris. I believe that it will be the beginning of abundance.

Keep the water flowing, friends.


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