It’s not that sleep won’t come. I’m generally asleep by the time my head hits the pillow at night. Unfortunately on both Saturday and Sunday mornings over this past weekend, I awakened at 2:00 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. Consequently, I was a little concerned Sunday morning that I might fall asleep during church. It would be a little difficult to camouflage my level of alertness since I was doing the speaking. Of course, I’ve heard of talking in one’s sleep. However, I hoped not to go there.
Saturday morning I didn’t awaken to the sound of rain hitting our roof, but my thoughts immediately turned to those that did. I had the eerie sense that for many the day wouldn’t be just another day. It would be a day of heartbreak and despair. My thoughts were with them.
As I lay in the comfort and safety of my bed in the early morning hours on Saturday, I prayed for those who were already dealing with an unwanted guest by the name of Harvey. Already Harvey had made landfall and for many had figuratively turned their world upside down. In fact, life for them would never quite be the same again. The recollection and horror of that experience would forever be etched in stone in the resources of their memories.
In fact, Harvey had come to the Texas coast without invitation, but his wasn’t a surprise appearance. His reputation preceded him. Folks had known for several days that Harvey was coming, but it wasn’t known that his arrival would be as forceful and as unforgiving as he proved to be.
Once here, Harvey reportedly decided to hang around to see what additional damage he could stir up. I guess you could say Harvey wasn’t content to leave well enough alone. Only time will tell the extent of damage or the numbers of lost lives that will be linked to his credit. Sadly, Harvey is still a force with which we have no option but to deal.
Sunday morning when I awakened at two a.m., it was initially to the sound of wind. Somehow I was surprised by that discovery. I was expecting the sound of rain, but I wasn’t anticipating the sound of wind. As I listened to the howling of the wind it was almost with a sense of guilt. However, I knew we weren’t at risk.
Unlike the people who awakened Saturday morning to Harvey’s pounding on their homes, our home would remain intact. The roof of our home wasn’t going to be lifted off the rafters.
After all when Harvey showed up in my neighborhood, he had been reduced from hurricane status to that of a tropical storm. Even the subsequent sound of pelting rain hitting the skylight in our bathroom wasn’t going to drench the inside our home as it did for many on Saturday. We were safe. We were comfortably secure and dry. We were unharmed.
Scripture tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust alike. I’ve done nothing to merit my protection from the storm just as those whose world unraveled Saturday had done nothing to deserve the pounding they received. It rains on the just and unjust alike.
Earlier this week, I entitled a blog “Denial” and made comments about my failure to understand why people would choose to stay potentially in harms way of an approaching deadly storm when they had the opportunity to get out while the getting was good. Seriously, it defies my understanding.
A young woman who reads my blog in the Houston area responded that she remembered Hurricane Ike. My reference to the instructions for people refusing to evacuate to write their name and social security number on their arm so their lifeless body could be identified following the storm struck a chord with her.
She wrote: “The social security number on the arm brought such a sense of dread and realness to this situation. The store I worked at during Ike had just reopened to the public, when I had a group of seven or eight gentlemen come in to find essentials for recovering the coast: water, mosquito spray, gas cans, etc. They had just started letting people go over to Bolivar to clean up, but there were no supplies that close to the coast yet, hence why I got to meet these men”.
“In the midst of escorting them thru the store and making sure they had all they needed, I made small talk about what it was like down there. They were telling me about the stench from the sheer loss of livestock in the bay and out in fields… but the most unnerving was when they had told me of finding a little girl, maybe nine, who had her social security number written on her arm out in the middle of nothingness. Red sharpie”.
“I went to the office and cried after they left. I DON’T understand how a parent, who was obviously aware of the potential impact, hence writing social security number on their child, could have chosen to stay. I still think about that every time I hear the word hurricane”.
Reading her reflection of the past memory associated to Ike put a lump in my throat. It was indeed a sad set of circumstances. Sunday morning as my thoughts drifted to those still in harms way from subsequent flooding, I thought about that nine-year-old girl whose identification had been written on her arm with the red sharpie and her mother.
From out of the blue, I had another thought about why a mother would opt to take her chances and place her daughter at risk. When I think about risk takers, I generally think about guys my age who think they know it all. You can find them in lots of places. They think they have the innate skillset to weather any storm. After all, “They‘ve done it before and if they’ve done it once they can do it twice.” You know the prototype I’m talking about. I don’t so much associate that same kind of attitude to a mother of a nine year old.
Most of us filter information from the vantage point of what we would do if we found ourselves in similar circumstances. Our frame of reference is generally based on the repertoire of choices we generally have available to us. Let me ask you this: “What would you do if you were impoverished and without the financial resources to cover the cost of evacuating? Food and shelter are two of the basics on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The mom and daughter who stayed behind might not have had two thin dimes to rub together. Having no money closes a lot of options.
They may not have had transportation or resources to locate lodging or groceries when they were out of their element. They may have selected the only option they thought was available. I guess until you walk a mile in another’s shoes, you really can’t begin to imagine the limitations of another’s existence.
There is a chapter in one of Max Lucado’s books entitled: “Seeing God Through Shattered Glass”. That concept strikes a chord with most of us. We know what that feels like. We know how our thoughts of God can get distorted based on disappointment and tragedy that abruptly enters our life and figuratively lays to ruin what previously has been whole.
Sometimes from the vantage point of hurt we mistakenly blame God for the sense of injustice we find ourselves up against. After all, if God is omnipotent couldn’t he have precluded harm from coming our way?
We forget that ours is a broken world and that there are two forces at play. Why blame God for Harvey’s insatiable desire to pelt folks with his assaultive nature? Years ago as I pieced together my concept of God’s nature, I learned to steer clear from blaming God for the hurts that come our way.
While I was a college student working as an orderly in the emergency room of a major hospital, I repeatedly heard the hospital chaplain or a local pastor counsel with a family in the midst of life’s darkest hours. Their rhetoric was always the same: “We can’t understand it, but this is God’s will.” I wanted to scream: “No! No! No!” That didn’t fit my concept of God. Isn’t there is a big difference between God’s perfect will and his permissive will?”
God doesn’t abandon us when life becomes difficult, but he comes along side us and meets us at the point of need. Most people my age experientially know what shattered glass looks and feels like. We’ve lived long enough to know that every story doesn’t have an optimum happy ending. But we also have lived long enough to know the proven dependability of God’s love.
It rains on the just and unjust alike and the consequences of people like Harvey are no respecter of persons. As I lay in my bed on Saturday morning contemplating Harvey’s brutal and assaultive entry into Texas, my sense of personal safety had no relationship to my deserving. The folks along the coast who found themselves in harms way, also could say they same. They weren’t getting what they deserved.
All My Best!