Last week we watched Irma, that swirling monster of a storm, with twisted stomachs and sick hearts. Friends we love live in Florida. We wanted them to be safe, their homes to stay dry, their schools and workplaces untouched. We read their anxious updates, prayed for protection, watched the weather forecast. It looked like the worst was coming.
And then the storm turned.
Everyone we know is ok.
I am deeply grateful for this fact. And I am secretly jealous.
Because this is the path I thought our story would take. It looks bad, it’s looking worse, dear God it looks absolutely horri – oh wait! Everything is fine.
He came through surgery. Her chemo shrunk the tumor. They were able to have a baby. He didn’t end up on that plane. No one was home when the tree fell. The doctor was wrong. She beat the odds. Rehab worked. His job was safe. The driver swerved.
Their twins survived.
Instead, our hurricane gained strength. It swirled and churned and everyone prayed and prayed and was so sure it would turn, it wouldn’t hit, the girls would live, God answers prayers, everything will be fine, you’ll see.
But here we are, a year and a half later. All the news cameras are gone, capturing other stories now. All the disaster aid has dried up, attention turned to other storms.
We’re still here, sifting through the wreckage. Stopping every so often to stand and scratch our heads, bewildered by shock, trying to accept the scene before us, the pieces of our hope blown apart and scattered across the lawn. You’ve seen that photo before. That’s our life.
The hurricane hit us head on. We got the worst odds, the category 5, the direct path, the full impact.
No one expected that. No one does. We hold out hope until the end. And thank God our minds are built to do so. It saves us, so many times.
Except when it doesn’t.
. . .
I honestly don’t know what I believe about intercessory prayer anymore. I believe in it and I don’t.
I catch myself rolling eyes when people ask for petty petitions, the equivalent of a parking space in a crowded lot. And then I remember the God who loves sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads.
I don’t know. Maybe.
I grow angry when people say things like “he’s got too much work left to do!” and “I knew she’d beat it, she’s such a fighter!” Did my girls not have a reason to stay? Were they—was I—not strong enough?
Nonsense. But then I wonder what miracles mean.
I bite my cheek when people write to me about how “God answered my prayer!” and “this saint saved my child!” Did God ignore my pleading? Did we pick the wrong saints?
Of course not. This is not how the divine works.
Except I don’t know how the divine works.
The hurricane demolished those thin walls of certainty, too.
. . .
Human resilience is one new proof of God, for me.
I didn’t see it before: the strength of the Creator to give us strength, to make us able to withstand trauma and tragedy.
But the faces, the survivors, the stories I have seen since my daughters died—good God, they are the bricks that help me rebuild.
I stack each one up, how the wounded keep getting out of bed each morning, how they don’t give up on the very life that destroyed what they loved. I step back sometimes and look at the small but stronger wall I’m building.
Faith’s rebar, maybe. The reminder that steel can twist but still stand.
. . .
The hurricane didn’t veer. None of our sandbags did anything.
But a year and a half later, when everyone expects you’ve moved on, left that mess behind you, we’re still here. Sorting through the wreckage, trying to salvage what’s left.
Does God send the storm or does God stop the storm? I don’t know. Maybe neither. Maybe both.
I can’t think it through with the same theological, theoretical delight that I used to. It’s not a theorem to prove or a story problem to solve. It’s my existence. I have to live within its edges and contours.
How much time can I give to grief when I have a baby to raise? How can I still look at loss when my life holds so much gift?
I don’t know. I just keep going. The strength of human resilience.
Brick by brick, some new structure is emerging. I still don’t know what it will hold, what it can withstand. Or if another terrifying storm will flatten it once and for all. It could. Or it won’t.
Maybe God is the mortar. Maybe God is the fact that there are bricks at all.
What I’m left with is this: there is God.