Damage from a tornado that struck Garland, Texas, where my brother and wife have lived for more than 40 years. The catastrophe struck “close to home” for me in North Texas where I went to college, lived and worked for so many years. This Dallas News photo by Nathan Hunsinger
The daily news we consume usually feels so distant that it hardly moves us, if it all.
A tsunami or volcano or massive violence erupts somewhere on the planet and suddenly thousands of lives are lost and thousands more disrupted for years.
Even closer to home in the States, a news consumer in Texas or Florida reads about a killer storm way up the northeast or a catastrophe on the West Coast and may have a fleeting sense of pity.
Most of the horrible things that happen in life are out of sight and mostly out of mind, until something hits “close to home,” as it did for me Saturday night.
I clicked onto Facebook rather late in the evening to learn that tornadoes had killed and hurt a lot of people in places where many of my closest relatives and friends are located in the greater-Dallas area. (More on it and relief efforts in this message today from my Bishop.)
The sense of relief I felt was palpable when I learned that all my loved ones in North Texas were OK.
But I had some anxious moments when I saw the news that storms were threatening places like Collin County, where my youngest-born daughter and her husband and year-old baby girl live.
Some of the deadliest damage and loss of life occurred in Rowlett and neighboring Garland, where my brother and his wife built their home when I was in college. My nephew and niece and their families live in communities very close by to Garland/Rowlett, in Murphy and Wylie.
The storms hit close to where I worked the night shift as a chaplain at the suburban hospital in Garland. I’m sure my friends who are caregivers at that hospital did some heroic work in saving lives, and quite possibly failing to save some lives in spite of their best efforts. I was praying for them and the victims they saw last night.
North Texas, of course, wasn’t the only part of the big state to get banged up by freakish weather. People from El Paso and the Panhandle to areas south of Dallas have had their lives disrupted in serious or critical ways by Saturday’s weather.
How sad it is that so many people whose lives have been lost or damaged were enjoying family and friends and food and all the pleasures that Christmas Day brings only hours before.
How sad, on one level, that life is so tenuous, in spite of all the joys we take from life. One day we’re joy-filled and the next day we’re feeling devastated, if we’ve been fortunate enough to survive and feel anything at all.
God’s good creation is a living, breathing and dangerous piece of work. Nature often reminds us that no matter how safe and solid we build our houses and make our cars and try to ensure the security of our lives and the lives of our loved ones, many things–weather being a big one–are beyond our control.
That’s why we’re all, at bottom, anxious, insecure people. That’s why we all need the healing power of God–this God who gave us an earth that provides all we need for life starting with food and water and the air we breathe.
How can a living, breathing planet be anything if not dangerous as well as good? The same law of gravity that keeps our feet on the ground may be the cause of our demise if we fall off a roof.
We can’t expect God to suspend natural laws in order to save us from catastrophes.
We can ask the God of tender mercies to walk with those who are suffering and struggling through some dark life valleys today.
God help them.
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