When hurricane Katrina hit (ironically a few days away from being 12 years to the day of Harvey), there were mumbles it happened to the city of New Orleans because of their wicked ways. It was God’s judgment. I heard the implications from people I knew and was horrified these thoughts could come from people of faith.
Houston has more mega churches than any city in America. What are people mumbling now?
Most of us know the story about Jesus calming the storm. It’s a dramatic story with all the fishermen on the boat fearing for their lives as they are overcome with a raging storm. I imagine, being men of the sea, they were doing plenty to steady the boat, to battle the winds. Somehow, Jesus was sleeping through this. As their last resort, the men woke him up with screams of “Don’t you care we’re going to drown?” Yes, his faithful followers were just like us: questions and doubts in the face of fear.
In no more than a handful of words, Jesus calmed the storm.
We’ve used it as a metaphor to get through figurative storms of life. We proclaim we know the one who calms the storms. We use this story and our words to bring comfort to others. God is in control!
Can I tell you? These words don’t do much for me in the face of devastation. I do believe in God’s sovereignty but I don’t come close to understanding it.
What I do know is prayers are being said over and over and the rain continues to fall.
Twenty-five years ago it was our community preparing for a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew. We brought lawn chairs and potted plants inside. He boarded up the windows while I packed up things inside. We packed the kids, dog and my mom who was visiting, into our mini van and hitched our pop-up camper and headed inland and north. We took shelter.
We were fortunate not to sustain a direct hit. We became support for others who had direct involvement in the long-term disaster services.
But this hit to Houston, our country’s fourth largest city, is unprecedented. The images of people in wheelchairs in the midst of flood waters are heart breaking. Photos of first responders carrying children to safety are heart warming. My emotions are a mess just watching the evening news.
What keeps coming to mind is less than 3 weeks ago, our eyes were on the ugliest parts of humanity: we turned against each other with violence in the name of hate.
Two pictures of America. One captures the ugliest of ugly and the other, the ones playing out now of rescue efforts from the storm, depicts true beauty. Who are we?
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote says only love can overcome hate. Can we sustain the kind of love we see when disaster comes our way? Can we show compassion in sunny days too? Why does it take hurricanes and sorrow to blur the lines of politics and color?
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Somewhere, in the midst of these storms, God offers peace. Peace for the tens of thousands whose lives have been ravaged by a hurricane. It’s harder to imagine peace can be found for hearts wrapped in hatred but it is the call of Jesus. It is the call to lay down your fears, hate, bigotry, pride, selfishness, and turn to the one who is Peace.
“My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful.” John 14:27
Where do you find grace? Inside the church walls? Around the dinner table with your family? For years, grace was not much more than the prayer we said before meals or a biblical concept. Then I met a group of men who had, as we say, reached bottom. They welcomed me to Graceland. They showing me grace can be found in the darkest of places. I'm still searching and learning. I hope you'll want to come along.