I’ve always been one who frets a bit. It’s in my DNA. But, somewhere underneath all the worrying, I’ve also been a person who believed in the fantasy of Disney Land. You know, that everything is controlled and safe and happy and nothing really bad is going to happen. The juxtaposition of dread and hope has woven a blanket of cautious security in which to hide. As long as I kept worrying about what could happen, nothing bad would happen. Sounds crazy, huh. However, I bet some who read this can relate. I think another way of expressing it would be I lived under the illusion of control. And, worry was the lever.
And then came Harvey. And, with it my neatly constructed illusion has been torn to shreds.
We worried in Corpus Christi about Harvey. We boarded up. We evacuated. And, we watched from afar as our sparkling city by the bay was spared the brunt of the storm while our neighboring communities took the full impact. Communities knocked to the ground with nothing left but the fierce will of resilience and the compassion of strangers to sustain them during these early days of aftermath.
And then Harvey moved on up the coast and struck Houston in a way that the fourth largest city in this country had not seen in years. Houston had prepared for the fierceness of this storm. But there was no preparing for what turned out to be so much worse than the winds and rains of nature.
What hurt the city the most was the human made decision (no doubt a difficult one) to release water from overloaded reservoirs in an effort to prevent them from breaking and causing catastrophic flooding. Why do we humans keep thinking we can somehow control nature instead of, at best, respecting and partnering with it. The nation watched in horror as homes that had stayed dry through the initial storm succumbed to the rising waters of release. Waters that became rising waves of terror and even today remain in control of many areas and homes.
My sister and her husband were spared water in their home, yet had to be evacuated by boat as their once lazy street became a restless river. The home that had been in my husband’s family for forty-five years, the home we had loved and lived in for thirteen years and sold last year to a precious young family eager to make new memories, was flooded and may still be today. Whole neighborhoods of families doing their best to make their lives purposeful and productive lost everything. It will take years to recover and it will impact us all whether we realize that or not.
To make things worse, as the waters recede the reports rise that perhaps the worst of this could have been prevented if the powers that be had heeded the warnings and recommendations made some twenty plus years ago. If they had planned more, if they had gone to the time, effort and expense for safety rather than for development, maybe….we wouldn’t be seeing the devastation we are seeing today. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that in the wake of these reports there will be division and blame as all continue to wade through the responsibility of recovery. As if our country needed something else to divide over.
It’s not fair that people living in these areas had no idea of the real danger they were in. For years! Yes, no one expected a flood of this proportion. No one ever does. Even when there are warnings we don’t believe that the worst will really happen. Until it does.
I’m not one who says that all things happen for a reason. Or, that God did this. I don’t believe God orchestrates things like some elaborate puppet show. I do believe God’s love and power are present and available in and through all things, even the flood waters, and if we are open to it there are gifts among the ruins. There are threads of grace in all the muck and mire. And there can be peace in the storm. Life that comes in the midst of loss. Joy can rise in the midst of pain. This is the nature of Christ. This is the peace that passes all understanding.
Along with the images of destruction I also watched (from my admittedly “dry privilege”) the visions of compassion as stranger reached out to stranger in the deepest of waters. This storm was no respecter of person and the rescue was not either. From what I could see no one cared about creed or color. It was one human being carrying another. It was unity of purpose that transcended any of the differences we usually impose upon one another. It was a thing of beauty to see, and these testimonies have provided lifelines of grace in the face of so much pain.
Somewhere, in the midst of all the differences and uncertainties in the world, in these storm torn areas there came a rising swell of unity as relationships were forged, not on like mindedness but rather a mutual awareness, respect, and compassion for shared humanity. Something in the words I read and hear and see in the faces on the many news reports convinces me these storm survivors and helpers now know something I don’t. This experience has changed them. It has deepened them.
The illusion that life is safe and predictable is gone for them. An innocence has died.They are now on the journey of grief. What’s left behind and what they take with them will be for each to decide. For some this loss of illusion will be replaced with anger and bitterness. For others it will be replaced with gratitude and wisdom, and yes, joy for what truly matters. The difference will be determined by their capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness towards God, nature, government, neighbor, self. Forgiveness in the midst of their pain and frustration. Forgiveness is the lifeline through grief and the bridge to recovery. I’d like to think if I were in their place I would choose the latter, the wisdom, gratitude, and joy. If I’m truly honest, the best I can hope for is a mixture of both.
Even as I finish this, I am getting notifications about Hurricane Irma and the impending danger for its target. I brace myself for the pain I will see (again and this time at least, from afar) and ready myself for the beauty I will see in its wake. People loving God in loving their neighbor.
Something to chew on…