Some Thoughts After 05/20/13

Moore Tornado Damage 2013I woke up this morning to a cool breeze blowing in my window. The curtains billowed softly and the fresh damp smell of spring whispered me awake. It was peaceful. And then I heard my children giggling in the other room as they capered about in their pajamas, waiting for me to make breakfast.

A few miles to the south, mothers like me have had their hearts ripped out and are reeling in blinding pain. They spent the night wondering if their babies are alive or dead – some of them already knowing the worst – and awoke this morning to searing horror… if they slept at all. Jagged rubble buries all that once resembled their lives. Homes have been leveled – all that remains are the flat concrete slabs, blown bare. In some cases, the pavement from driveways has been ripped from the earth. Trees have been stripped of their very bark. The raw dirt has been raked up where there once was asphalt and automobiles lie in mangled piles of metal, tossed and twisted as if by some giant, malevolent toddler.

Why? That is the question I want to ask. Why am I okay when my neighbors are dying? Why are my children happy and healthy when so many little lambs have been lost in a nightmare of wind and debris? It makes no sense. I feel guilty for smiling or laughing today. I am angry when people from outside of Oklahoma crack jokes on Twitter or talk about normal life on Facebook. Don’t they get it? People’s children are dead. First responders are seeing things that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Grown men, trained in search and rescue, will be broken. The smells, the sounds, the sights. It is all real. It is hell.

Why? But when I see the destruction, I realize that the question is not why anyone died, but rather, why did anyone live? That is the miracle. When a child is pulled alive from the rubble, when a teacher is found protecting her charges… why are these souls still with us? When I look in the mirror and see my own face – why? Why was I spared?

And it strikes me that the church should be asking this everyday. Why did God in His mercy and mystery save any of us? Why are we called out in the midst of life’s everyday wreckage? When we see the broken spirits of our neighbors, casualties of the crushing weight of sin, people around us ground down by despair… the miracle is that God became one of us to save any of us at all.

We are spared. And we can not know why. We certainly don’t deserve it. There is no easy answer for why my body is not buried in mud and debris in Moore. There is no easy answer for why my soul is not crushed into oblivion by my own sin. There is only a merciful, transcendent God whose name is I AM. His ways are not our ways.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was that when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle . . .” I Kings 19:11-13