Please read that title again. I want to be fully clear. Note that I did not say, “I love disasters.” “What” is the key word. There is something within disasters, when they unfortunately happen, that I love.
Disasters get our attention. They make us stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out to one another…
Disasters make us stop. Years ago I heard someone say that “if satan can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy.” (Yes, I realize I didn’t capitalize that proper noun; satan doesn’t deserve it.) Sometimes we get so busy with our work, routines, and “to do lists,” that we fail to take time to do what’s most important — listen well, invest in others, build community, etc. Those things take time. While we might not be susceptible to adopt and embrace evil, we are susceptible to not doing good. When we’re too busy, we aren’t doing good.
Disasters make us reflect. Because we are busy, we miss the wisdom that comes with intentional pause and self-reflection. Often we are busy with good things. Yet when we get so wrapped up in even a good thing — an interest, initiative, ambition or activity — we often fail to reflect upon where we are off, where we need to grow, or where we need to be more humble and kind. Reflection has the unique, necessary potential to keep us humbler. Kinder, too.
Disasters make us cry out to God. Often I wonder if our greatest sin is self-reliance. We become so dependent on ourselves and so confident in our own abilities that we fail to acknowledge the great big God of the universe. We fail to acknowledge who he is, what he has done, and his role and presence in each of our lives. I know that’s a huge conversation, and it’s one I am most willing to have. My point, no less, is that often the only way we cry out to God — acknowledging him, asking for help, or even expressing our gratitude — is when what’s happened in our lives is too big for us to control. Disaster makes us realize what we cannot control. We need far more than self.
Disasters make us reach out to one another. One of the things that has most disturbed me in recent years is the number of things we allow to get in the middle of relationship — all the things that we allow to divide us. Let me be clear: we allow it. We justify an incident, offense, or difference to love someone less… to stop talking to them, to think worse of them, to disrespect them. We choose to love them less. We divide. Disasters have the potential to help us realize that those incidents, offenses, and differences that we have put in the way of relationship are not as important as we made them.
The reality is as I write this, I’m standing in the predicted, calamitous path of Hurricane Irma. I’m not certain of the extent of disaster as of yet, but we are prayerfully prepared to face what’s next. It’s tough, especially not knowing how bad this is going to be. We just witnessed Hurricane Harvey, and the recovery there will no doubt be costly, painful, and long.
But Harvey and Irma afford us the opportunity to more fully comprehend community — to respect and value others in spite of perceived differences and to recognize we have all been divinely created equally. As a friend also awaiting Irma said, “Sometimes people only understand ‘we are one’ during a time of extreme humanity needs.”
Note the joint video announcement from all five living former presidents this past week, appearing together to raise money for relief efforts following Harvey. “One America Appeal” is the name of their initiative. As Pres. Bill Clinton said in their video, “Hurricane Harvey brought terrible destruction — but it also brought out the best in humanity.”
Also true is that those five men — Carter, Clinton, Bush 41, 43, and Obama — have lots of differences. They have all sorts of incidents, offenses, and different ways of thinking that if they allow, could impede any good. But the disaster has prompted them to prioritize what’s most important.
That’s “what” I love about disasters. We stop, reflect, cry out to God, and reach out and respect one another.
(Time now to hunker down.)
[Note: Tuesday’s post will depend on power after Hurricane Irma passes our area. We’ll post on schedule if able.]