Mentally I am preparing to go back to my parent’s house this coming Tuesday for the Thanksgiving holiday. On Sunday, as my parents were leaving their church in Washington, Illinois they heard the sirens that announced a tornado was on its way. They went back to church and took refuge in the basement of the church. Good thing, too, as much of the town of Washington was destroyed, including most of my brother’s neighbors, starting just four doors down from his house! A few members of the church many friends of my mother’s and one of my brother’s best friends lost their homes. The destruction, just from the pictures, is amazing.
Thankfully, in schools and communities, people are prepared to know what to do, which usually keeps the fatalities and injuries to a minimum. But nothing one can do can prepare themselves for the fear that comes when you see a home you think is indestructible disappear as if it were never there. Right now, in my mind and heart, I think of my two nieces, especially the older of the two who witness this and wonder what must be going through their minds as they experienced the trauma of the situation.
Growing up in the Midwest, tornados were both scary and intriguing. I remember once in college driving to my parents home seeing one form across the cornfield. I learned at that moment that my car could go 100mph to get me to a safe place to pull over. But by the time I got to that safe place the dark clouds lifted and there was no sign it ever existed, except I am sure of a few crops that were damaged. This was a very small one.
Still, it was eerie how something so uncontrollable can cause so much damage and there is nothing one can do about it. But then again it makes you think about how much of life is uncontrollable. While natural disasters make us think about the bigger picture and the awesome destruction that happens, there are a lot of life-changing moments that are part of our everyday lives when our world is so changed it can never go back to what it once was. There is so much loss when a disaster hits that the world that is left is irrevocably changed. This change creates a level of fear.
Fear is a natural human reaction to a changing world. It is one of the primal senses that keeps us safe. Fear keeps us from getting into situations that might hurt or kill us. But when fear takes over our lives, that fear can keep us from living even the most simple of lives. Which makes me think of the tornado that, on one hand, has a level of destruction that is to be feared, but on the other is an awesome force of nature that people study and some actually believe can teach us about our world.
Often in disasters we turn to God and ask why. It is a hard question to answer. Talk to an environmentalist and they will give you the answer that these storms are becoming worse because we are not being good stewards of our world, or a possibly some far-right religious person saying that it is God’s wrath for this or that. Interestingly, neither of those sides are too far off. Think about it: both point back to a collective question to humanity, are we really living right? Are we really living for building each other up, or are we living for our own needs disregarding a good stewardship of the gifts God has given us? Interesting, hmm?
It is easy to blame God, just as it is easy to blame others, but it is hard to sit back and look inward to ourselves and see that often we do not live as God has called us, we do not live for one another, we do not live to build up the body, we do not live as good stewards of God’s gift. And we are then left to wonder why.
The thing is that while destruction will happen and the world will end at some point, what God is calling us to do is be good stewards and thankful for the gifts and life that we have in him. We have to trust and understand that when bad things happen, we are not to stop and sit in fear; rather we are called to rebuild and move on. To look to the great gifts God has given them and us for His Glory. Moreover, we are called to be good stewards in community together.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen