In the past few weeks, we’ve seen images of women in wheelchairs as their Houston area nursing home flooded. We’ve watched video of the streets of downtown Miami full of water flowing like rivers. We’ve looked at pictures of the British Virgin Islands from the sky with the island completely brown as hurricane force winds blew all the leaves off every single tree.
But we’ve also seen pictures of endless rows of trucks pulling fishing boats driving toward the storms to help rescue people stranded. Nuns brandishing chainsaws. Rescue personnel taking enormous risks for the sake of strangers.
These natural disasters tend to bring out the best in us. Maybe it’s because they are a great equalizer. People living in poverty face the greatest challenges in these storms, but the rain falls on the rich and poor alike.
These storms are devastating and disorienting. Even those of us who watch them from the safety of our homes hundreds of miles away, experience a de-centering awareness as we see the storm’s power. We realize that we are in less control of our lives than we like to believe. All the material stuff we invest in is actually just stuff (a lot easier to say, I know, with my electricity working and closet full of dry clothes). These moments remind us that each one of us is enormously dependent on one another and this planet.
It puts us right next to our ancestors in faith, who endured the powers of storms and mighty seas without the benefit of meteorologists or concrete foundations, looking to God for help and courage. Throughout the Psalms, we hear believers call out to God whose power is greater than the storms. Jesus’ divine strength is seen after he calms a storm while riding a boat with his disciples. They ask each other, “who is this then, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Along with people of faith of every generation, these storms remind us that despite all our achievements and brilliance, God is still God and we are not. We aren’t the center of things, with sole control of our lives. But this realization can be the most empowering and liberating truth.
It’s freeing to understand our place in the order of things, dependent on one another and all of creation for our well-being and flourishing. We can use our energy not in attempts to control but in humble service to the most vulnerable, joining forces for good with those boat drivers and rescue workers. As people of faith amazed at the power and vulnerability of our created world and changing climate, we have particular responsibility (and delight) in doing everything we can to protect it.
–Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor