Tuesday, May 21, 2013

On Oklahoma

candle, darkness, light, flame, remembranceEditors note: I lived in Oklahoma for four years during college and I learned to regard tornadoes as something akin to mythical beasts. They existed, but they were always just far enough away to not be dangerous yet close enough to still be powerful. I had friends who would chase storms for fun and friends who would stay locked inside the bathroom until they heard the all clear. During my senior year, I watched from the balcony of my apartment as a tornado touched down just a few miles north.

Everybody has a tornado story in Oklahoma. But there was always one story that all the natives knew and spoke of in hushed, serious voices: The one that hit Moore in 1999. I remember one of my friends telling me that eight years later Moore was still recovering and that it still had years to go.

And now this. Yesterday, yet another major tornado touched down in Moore and followed much the same path as the one in 1999. 51 were killed including at least 20 children. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Today, as an act of communal lament, we're going to run a piece written by friend Ian who lives in Mustang a few miles west of Moore. After the piece, I'll include several links to places where you can donate/volunteer/give blood. This is what families do. They hurt together. They cry together. They help together. They build together.

Lord, hear our prayer.

by Ian McLoud

At times like this we want to try and make sense of what's happening. Well meaning people will say things like, “God will work through this disaster,” but to those who are living with through the horror of this, it just sounds like empty platitudes. Less well meaning people will find someone to blame whether that someone be God or the people of Oklahoma, or who knows. Blame follows pain. 

While it may be true that God will work through this disaster, that God is to blame or any number of caveats revealed after the fact, all of these responses are the wrong one. They’re wrong because they take away from the pain that is still happening, right now.

At times like this people need to grieve. They need to scream. They need to cry. Let them be angry with God. Let them scream at Him. Allow people to mourn. Allow people, to quote Dr. John Dorian, to “feel their feelings, Turk!” No one can explain why yesterday’s tornado happened. And what good would it do to try? 

During times of disaster, niceties are as useless to our sense of well-being as the carbon dioxide expelled from our mouth in the process. Nothing makes sense in a disaster. Nothing makes sense in a tragedy. 

In the wake of F4 tornadoes, the Boston marathon bombing, the Aurora shooting and countless other tragedies that happen on a daily basis, what can be said that will bring things back to normal? What words can be said to a family that has just lost their house that will make that loss okay or bring their house back from rubble? What words can be said to a grieving parent that will lessen the sting of knowing they will have to bury a child? Were Job’s friends truly of any comfort to him? Does the Psalmist find comfort in knowing that at some point, but not right now, God will take care of his enemies? Job wanted to make sense of his suffering right then and there. The Psalmist wanted immediate action taken against his enemies. Who can offer that to those affected by the tornado yesterday?

It’s human nature to want to do something. So offer an ear to listen. Offer a prayer, a hug, the comfort of your presence. Offer a laugh when it’s appropriate and a shoulder for crying when it’s not. We mean well when we say that God will make something good out of this mess. And maybe he will, but maybe isn’t right now. Right now it hurts. Right now we want to cry. Right now it’s not okay. And that’s okay.

If you would like to donate to disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross. You can also donate online or call 1-800-RED CROSS to donate by phone. If you know of any further or more specific relief efforts, please leave the information in the comments.

Ian is the Youth and Family Minister at the Lakehoma Church of Christ in Mustang, Oklahoma. You can follow him on Twitter @KindaScottish.

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