It’s hard to know how to write about a flood as big as Harvey. I tried reading every verse in Bible about water to gain some understanding from a faith perspective. I was reminded that in the beginning it was just God and water: “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” When we see a flood, we can be reminded that the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters still and creating something new. I read the story of Noah: when God destroyed life on earth due to the evil of the time, he did so with water not fire, which is a powerful reminder of how devastating floods can be. I read the stories of Moses, how water played a role in his rescue as a baby, and how as a grown up he was given power to control the waters. When we see the devastation caused by water, we realize how completely powerless we are over water when it’s moving where we don’t expect (just try stopping the flow of water from a faucet with your thumb!). We also gain new appreciation for Moses and also for Jesus calming the storm and walking on water. I read the stories scattered throughout the Old Testament about finding water (and love) at wells. We need water to live and yet we are not prepared to live in it! In Psalms, water is mostly associated with flourishing, but there all also cries of anguish from moments of peril caused by too much water. By passing through the waters of baptism, we are joined with the church in Christian fellowship and life will be different going forward. I know an event like Harvey draws people together in unexpected ways and will change lives for many going forward.
As an ordinary person just wondering what to make of this from a faith perspective, I found plenty of verses in the Bible about God and His role in it all: “He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them upon the surface of the earth–the Lord is his name.”-Amos 9:6. I read accounts of floods in the Bible as both trials and judgment, and after pondering this for some time, I reached the conclusion that the response to a crisis like Harvey determines whether the problem was experienced as a judgment or a trial. When a flood shows the strength of character and the genuineness of faith and the love for neighbor of those who experience it, then a flood is another one of life’s many trials. Jesus promises us in this world we will have troubles, and God promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”-Isaiah 43:2.
I was thinking about the distinction between a time of trial and a time of evil. When we say the Lord’s prayer: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we are really praying that we don’t want either!!! Don’t bring me to a time of trial and save me from the evil one! In Christ, we are called to come alongside others in their trials and to stand against evil. When God brings us to a time a trial, we are never supposed to go through it alone. Unlike a time where evil happens, there’s nothing to fight; we just work together. I give God thanks for the many ways that people have been moved to help others through this experience.
I was surprised to find my very favorite passage on water and floods in Song of Solomon:
A quality of water is that it reflects our image back to us. Below is just a few of the images I saw that reflect what was happening of the hearts of those in Texas.
I admit that often see news first on Facebook, especially on weekends. And the first moment I realized that Houston had flooded was seeing a picture on Facebook of a street with the water level up to the stop sign from the front door of Brene Brown (the awesome author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong). Facebook can make the news more personal, more real, and this post grabbed me. (Brene’s next post was from a shelter, where she volunteered her skills as a social worker to help with intake. She posted a video to raise awareness about what people at the shelter needed–fresh underwear! Three days later, she posted that 20,000 pairs of underwear arrived at a shelter housing 10,000.)
After the post above, I turned on CNN (TV at our home is a rare occasion.)
I watched as an elderly man was rescued from his home…I was touched by the compassion the News Reporter showed for this family.
I listend to Anderson Cooper talk with members of Team Rubicon, a group of volunteer veterans who share their skills and experiences with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. I was just filled with gratitude to know these guys exist and could be there so quickly! (His interview begins at about 58 seconds into this video…) It was heartening to hear about the Cajun navy and volunteers with boats working along side our Coast guard to get people to safety in a hurry.
Later in the week, I read the story of some bakers who were trapped at work by the storm, so they just kept baking. By simply doing what they knew how to do, they were able to provide food for first responders.
In all this mess, perhaps nobody seems more big-hearted that Matress Mack, who opened his furniture showroom to those displaced by the flood. He took care of people, made them comfortable, and fed them good food. He opened his doors wide and chose love over fear. And the delight, especially on the face of the children, says it all.
While some people jump into action, others need a moment to take in what happened. I’ve watched this video of a man playing hauntingly beautiful music on the piano in his flooded living room about 10 times. The message he shared in his Instagram post is more beautiful than the music. From his own heart-felt, authentic response, he offered hope in the midst of trouble and encouragement to others.
I went back to our street today because as you guys have probably seen the water has come back with a vengeance. I hope this was its high point. I grabbed the kids' favorite stuffed animals that we had left behind and a couple of games to keep the kids occupied. I think it's all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering. Our pastor @bruce_wesley reminded us of that truth from Romans 8 this morning on his Facebook Live broadcast. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18-28 ESV
Then I saw the story of a woman, who said she wanted so badly to help, but didn’t know how. she said, “I can use my voice.” She simply goes to a shelter to lift some spirits…
I feel so grateful to all these people, whose hearts were moved to do what they could do: compassionate news reporters and veterans who used their advanced rescue skills and a famous author who returned to her social work skills and bakers who made food for first responders and the owner of a furniture store show room and a reflective pianist and an outgoing singer. And it is inspiring to me to know that these people were able to help others simply by being in right place and using the resources and skills and wisdom available to them. This is how we see the hands and feet of God and how we experience God’s promise in concrete ways that he is always with us in deep waters. The best way that we can help others in times of trial is do well what God has created us do: pray and give as our hearts leads us to do. There’s a long road ahead for those affected by this flood. Texas, I am with you in my thoughts and prayers. You will rise strong!
Wherever you may live, there are people facing storms in their personal lives. Be present and give of yourself!