Note: this was written in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The southern east coast of the United States and its territories is now facing the fury and the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Oh Lord, hear our prayers!
My Morning Prayer includes a daily recitation of Psalm 88. Certain verses stood out this past week:
“For my soul was flooded with troubles, and my life came close to Hades. I was reckoned with those who sink in the abyss.” (Verses 3 and 4)
“They surround me like waters all the day, they close in upon me all together.” (Verse 17)
I could not take my eyes off the TV screen watching the horror unfold as Hurricane Harvey pummeled Texas. Predictions of 50+ inches of rain seemed inconceivable; even the weather forecasters could not believe it. Noah’s Ark came up in my thoughts many times.
For so many, there was no place to run, nowhere to hide. Feelings of security, safety and familiarity of home, neighborhood and community were swept away with the flood waters.
Hurricanes have an eye, a place in the middle of the chaos where the rain stops, the sky clears and the wind dies down. The eye passes quickly, followed by a return of rain, wind and their path of devastation. But in this case, the hurricane was just the beginning. In the six days of torrential rain that followed, there appeared to be no eye in the storm.
Or was there?
In such dire circumstances, everyday heroes began to emerge. First responders, the National Guard and the military worked day and night to rescue people, placing themselves in harm’s way; one policeman lost his life in the line of duty. Even though many of them had lost everything, these responders answered the call without hesitation.
But this was only the beginning of God’s army. Everyday people lined up to volunteer, bringing their boats and monster trucks to brave the flood waters rescue their neighbors. Folks poured in from around the country to lend a hand.
Fundraising efforts began immediately. Texans defensive end J.J. Watts started a modest effort online to raise $200,000; as of this date he has raised over $15 million. He has promised to be in it for the long haul.
Numerous volunteers from Franklin Graham’s charity, Samaritan’s Purse, came to lend a hand, addressing the everyday essentials, whether it be food, water or home cleanup and repairs, one family at a time
Other charities have stepped forward: The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities. Along with dioceses across the country, the Worcester Diocese held a special collection at all the masses last weekend and will continue to do so this weekend. $10,000 has already been pledged from Partners in Charity.
Sitting here in my warm and comfortable house, safe from flood waters, I could not help but contemplate how I would feel should such a disaster befall us. I wondered if I would have the endurance, the faith to cope. It is clear from what I have witnessed in Texas that God placed within us an amazing resilience that comes to life in the midst of crisis. While some have a real gift for a quick response to emergencies (my brother-in-law comes to mind), all of us have that resilience, particularly if we call upon the Holy Spirit to keep us afloat.
That resilience acts as a trip wire activating the human heart. The person that yesterday griped about the next-door neighbor and his barking dog steps up without hesitation to reach out and bring that neighbor and his dog to safety. The Holy Spirit erupts within, inundating us with strength and love we never thought ourselves capable of. Working in partnership with God, we can truly do amazing things.
The road to recovery will be long and painful. It could be so easy to forget those in need after the television coverage fades and the check is put in the collection basket. The devastation for these thousands of people will be life changing. How will my life be changed as I pray for them?
When I pray Psalm 88 each morning, I will think of the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I will also beg God to keep them fresh in my mind as the weeks pass. Familiarity breeds apathy; only the infusion of the Holy Spirit can keep the memories fresh and urgent. Those in need of help and those providing it will need many prayers as they face the long months ahead.
Psalm 51:10 is a good reminder: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Here is a song written and performed by Kitty Cleveland about her experience with Hurricane Katrina. Pray for everyone in the paths of these storms, that they will find that eye, the place of calm, where the Holy Spirit resides.
Copyright 2017 Susan W. Bailey