Each May is an anniversary. Not one I celebrate with fanfare and a cake, but an anniversary none the less. Like a massive angry parade, a tornado one mile in width came marching through our small Colorado town one spring morning in 2008, leaving a devastating path of destruction. One life was taken, but only by a series of everyday miracles, there were no more casualties to toll.
Running through the neighborhood in the immediate aftermath, my husband and I witnessed crying mothers (our friends and neighbors!) emerging from their homes with screaming toddlers in arms climbing into any vehicle that might still be upright and able to transport them. No matter the amount of shattered glass that had to be crawled over, they had to flee to…who knew where in that moment. My friend and neighbor, Jenny, says that she just drove. She drove aimlessly until she could no longer see destruction. She ended up a few miles away and sat and cried in fear and relief with her little ones in tow.
For what seemed an excruciatingly long time, I didn’t know if my oldest child was safe in his elementary classroom, if any of my neighbors had disappeared with the houses that were gone in an instant, I barely knew where I was or if I was actually okay. I didn’t know what to do, how to act in front of my youngest son, where to go, or how to even process the chaos. The only thing I know for certain as I reflect, is that God walked with each of us that day, every step of the way.
My heart breaks when I see coverage each spring of a tornado viciously stealing from good people. The tally comes by way of lives and cost to structures and property. But what can never be measured is the loss of innocence. A cruel reality that life can change in an instant haunts even the youngest victims afterward.
As I stood in shock amidst the rubble of what only minutes before was my home, I did something I believe I could never have consciously made the decision to do on my own. A peace came over me, albeit a rather frightening and foreign one. And I thanked God. I thanked Him for whatever purpose He had in mind with this event. I put my full trust in the One who uses all things for good for those who love Him. When I was finally assured that my children were safe, that close friends and family were accounted for, it seemed unreasonable to even question from that moment forward “why”.
Where do we find the strength? That was the question that was consistently posed to us in the months that followed. My family kept a sense of humor about the situation as we maneuvered our way through a grueling amount of insurance paperwork, construction, financial headaches, emotional disturbances, exhaustion and so much more. Our strength was, in fact, not at all ours alone!
Fight or flight is a natural human response to crisis, therefore it seemed unusual to everyone else that my family didn’t shut down emotionally or remain in a state of denial creating a general escape (flight). Nor was it logical that we weren’t lashing out in anger at others… or at God (fight). I reluctantly admit that some of the conversations I had with the utility companies are undoubtedly being used today in training employees how to deal with an extremely inappropriate, irate customer; but for the most part, animosity was not worth our energy, and we weren’t awarded the luxury of denial. We faced the exhausting reality daily.
I’ve discovered that when we practice a life of faith, God unearths in us a strength that we have never found necessary until that moment. If our faith has never been under pressure, if we have never experienced a true sense of helplessness, we honestly don’t know how powerful God can be when we allow Him to take over.
Deep within us in times of trouble, lays an initial, organic desire to rise above. We don’t always access that source of power on a day to day basis, but practicing faith in our routine lives helps make trusting God a much more instinctual response. To quote Kristin Smith, one of my best friends and a brilliant life coach by profession, “we find an unrecognizable amount of strength when we’re faced with unimaginable circumstances”!
Ultimately, that fateful day in May several years ago has had an enormous domino effect on my spiritual and personal growth. It hasn’t always been easy, but the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that God is in complete control at all times. I now thank Him sincerely and consciously even when my heart is anxious, seething in anger, or aching.
Withstanding a storm no longer scares me. Calming the storm within is where I focus my prayer.
I’m sure you can think of a time or two in your life that has tested you. Times when the courage or energy you mustered to lift you through was unexpected and unbelievable. Have you considered where that strength came from? I’d love to hear your stories of faith, trust and how you weathered the elements!
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