copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch
Ezekiel 47:9 And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.
You may lose a life. But you may gain a future.
Days of Tornados
Every day we struggle with the immensity of life and death. Both are enormous. Both require tenacity. Both require courage. In Oklahoma City, we face another tragedy of epic proportions. Some would refer to biblical proportions. Many stories recorded in our Bible are such immense acts of God and people that they can appear unbelievable. Trust me this morning seems unbelievable.
Last year my family and I lost many friends and members of the clans. Age, accident, and disease ripped loved ones from our vision and arms. In just a few weeks, the impact reached from California to Oklahoma to Mexico and touched close to my wife, my children, my friends and me.
Last year my job and work family was torn from my hands in the same weeks when these deaths occurred. Insurance, office, and just a place to get up and go to work and see friends disappeared in a moment of reorganization and decisions in back rooms.
Last year my wife and I flew upside down at 65 miles per hour in our car landing intact in body but a total loss of vehicle we had just bought. This happened in the same few weeks as the other disasters of loss.
You may lose a life. But you may gain a future.
We lost our lives. The familiar is gone forever in many instances. Months of rethinking and rebuilding create a new future. The old is gone. It is gone. It is dead. It is passed. Like a dear friendship accumulated over 50 years, I cannot have coffee with him anymore. I cannot laugh in the hallways of my old life and friendships, for the hallways are not there. It is not the first time tragedy has struck and will not be the last. It is the first time of such immensity and scope and hopefully the last of such proportion. Life is full of passing and coming. We pray it happens gradually and we have emotional landscape on which to recover.
This Pales. May 20th, 2013 families lost children at school, their home, their neighborhood, their neighbors, all their possessions, their work place, their memories and familiar turn points as they drove the same streets for years. Today, they do not even know where they are standing in front of what used to be a house. There are no familiar landmarks on which to lean and position thinking. They lost their lives. Yes, they may be physically alive. But they lost their lives. The death count is not 91. The death count is uncountable.
Gain a Future: Now this morning they must start the work of gaining the future. The future must be grasped and brought into reality. That is not easy and will take many friends.
Every morning, I enter a strange new land of new friendships and new relationships. What took a lifetime to build takes another lifetime to build. I don’t have another lifetime. Do I?
Can God build a lifetime in a few months? Yes.
Can God restore fortunes that took decades of labor and saving in a few weeks? Yes.
Can God bring new friendships and loving relationships? Yes.
Does that replace what we have lost? No.
You may lose a life. But, you may gain a future.
What is lost is lost. A new friendship does not replace an old one. The old one lingers in memory and mixed emotions. It is not meant to be replaced. A future must be grasped.
Grief Changes You: Many times I tell friends in grief, “You do not pass through grief. It changes you. The pain of loss only begins to heal when you can see the future without what you have lost. You must be able to grasp a vision of the future without that person or item in it. Allow grief to change you. You become a different person.”
Grief comes in waves. It can be too painful to process at once. Tsunami grief can strangle a future and lock us in pain. Ride the waves and grow stronger. So how does one handle massive and complicated and expansive loss? A week and even an entire month passes and I can’t even remember all that happened. Pain dulls the senses.
Change: I really don’t have the answer, because I am being changed into this future person. He is different than the old man and in some ways the same. We are human beings. We are humans being. It is the business of being that consumes us, morphs us, moves us, changes us and passes us through life and death, through coming and passing.
There is nothing ugly or evil about living and dying. It is what it is. The normalcy of it can be called evil.
Defiant: In Oklahoma, we laugh about our defiant men, who when tornados come, run outside to watch. With hubris, we look up in the fearsome clouds and talk to them. “Move on”, we declare. “Get out of my neighborhood.” And, most times, it seems to work. We go back to our homes where wife and kids are huddled under the stair well or in the bath tub or down in a safe room and say, “See, it is all gone, come out now.” Our defiance of evil pushes it aside. Yet, sometimes it does not work and we have no answers for that day. But, we will defiantly and resolutely stand in the face of such evil again and again and grasp our future. We are made of sterner stuff, we are the Oklahoma Standard.
Pain: It does not mean the pain subsides with a flippant face. It means we must grasp the future with pain in tow.
Attitude: It does not mean the loss is lessened with a conquering attitude. It means living in loss is unacceptable if you want to stay alive.
Another: Another loss is coming. Another gain is coming. Life is about the living through comings and goings.
So let us pray!
Father, You are the God of the Future. Every morning is new with You. Every grace comes fresh with the rising of the sun and the changes of our lives. You do not view death as final but You view death as entry to the next opportunity for life. In You, we never die. In You, we continue. We move forward. We change. We are changed. In You, we can live and move and have our being. No matter the pain or problem or pressure. In You is all we need.
When a piece dies and goes on, we are still ready for the next living breath and living moment. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory. We continue into the future in Christ.
Father, I pray those around me find this reality. Without You all is death. With You all is alive into the next moment. You have no end. Those in You have no end.
Show us. Let us grieve into becoming our next self and next victory. Let us die to the old and live to the new. In You.
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