The news this week has been dominated by images of individuals and families who, in the most literal way we can imagine, can’t survive on their own. The photographs and videos coming to us from southeast Texas are heartbreaking: nursing home residents sitting in waist-deep water, entire households waiting for rescue on rooftops. We want to know how this could happen. How could so many end up stranded? Why didn’t everyone leave sooner? What could the local and state governments have done differently as the storm approached? There are a hundred answers to each one of those questions, and the most helpful responses do not place blame. As this disaster continues to unfold, one thing is clear: we need each other.
It was the poet John Donne who famously wrote, “No man is an island,” but Christians shouldn’t need a hurricane to be convinced of that axiom. We are part of the Body of Christ, as the apostle Paul puts it, and each part of the body needs every other part. Another author, James K. A. Smith, writes, “the church constitutes our ‘first family.’”
“Baptism opens the home,” he says, “liberating it from the burden of impossible self-sufficiency, while also opening it to the ‘disruptive friendships’ that are the mark of the kingdom of God.” We know we can’t always make it on our own, and the good news is, we don’t have to.
My mom’s cousin lives in Houston and safely evacuated before the storm, but on Monday morning she posted this plea on Facebook: “We have family members that need to be rescued!” She went on to give details of the location of her relatives’ home, desperately hoping that someone in a position to help would see it. Fortunately, her relatives did escape the rising water around their home, but when I think about it now, I realize any one of us who claim the church as our spiritual home could say the same. We have family members that need to be rescued. From floods, poverty, loneliness – the list goes on.
Being part of the family of God means I’m not allowed to be concerned only with blood relations or the family that lives inside my home. “If the church is our first family, then our second homes should be defined by it, and our doors ought to be open to the stranger, the sick, and the poor.” Maybe on some days that means the list of people I need to care for seems overwhelming, but it also means the list of people who care for me is just as long.
May God provide for our family today – in the Quad Cities, in Houston, and everywhere in between.
–Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation