In the aftermath of Florence, emotions are wildly fluid and, at least for the moment, many here in the Carolinas are reflecting on the experience. Like most things in life, perspective is key, and there is no lack of differing ones.
Practically everyone in my general geography has lost something. The most devastated have lost loved ones to the tragic effects or consequences of the storm. A one-year-old died when his mother couldn't hold on after her car was swept up in flood waters. A mother and her infant were killed, and the father hospitalized, when a tree crushed their home. Another man died while trying to convert to generator power. Over 35 human deaths have been attributed to the storm so far.
In addition to human life, the estimated loss of farm animals is currently estimated to be over 3.4 million. That means a lot less chicken, pork and beef for America's tables. Crops were lost and refrigerated food in stores, restaurants and homes was lost due to power outages.
Many have lost nearly everything as flood waters rose in their homes, cars and businesses. Many churches, including ours, has suffered damage from the torrential winds and rain.
Although it is very easy to get caught up in the loss and devastation, we must be careful not to retreat into depression and despair. There is another perspective, another story if you will, that we must also consider. There is no better time to reflect on life and its meaning, than during and after a storm. The following are a few things to consider. I would love for you to weigh in with thoughts of your own in the comments section.
It Could Have Been Worse
I know this a popular and ofttimes maddening thing to hear, but it is the awful truth this time. I cannot even begin to imagine what things would look like today had the original forecasts been correct. We would certainly be looking at much greater loss of life, infrastructure and personal property than we are today. I am very thankful that my friends and family are safe.
Most People Want to Help
In the middle of the storm, I got a call. The man on the other end of the phone said, "I'm in town do you need anything." My first question was, "Why aren't you at home?" This retired first responder still feels the need to help people anyway he can. Throughout the storm, I lost count of the number of people offering to help others in various ways. Showers for those without electric or water, food for those without any, a dry place to sleep. For many, the best part of them shines best in the middle of a storm. It is a heartening thing to see.
We Reassess What is Important
When so much gets stripped away so quickly, we are forced to look at life differently. This can be a blessing. While sitting in the dark listening to the wind rip shingles from the roof and hearing the cracking of limbs from the huge cedar trees on the side of the house, I was grateful that my wife, girls, friends, cats, fish and birds were all safe. Cell phones were a huge blessing as we were able to connect with friends and neighbors and know that they too were safe and secure.
We Learn About Our Integrity
It has been said that integrity is the ability to carry the responsibility of the load placed upon something. Through this storm we learned that the integrity of some of our roads and bridges was insufficient for the demands placed upon them. Many collapsed causing serious damage, injury and road closures. Over 2,200 roads were closed during this ordeal. Some will probably not reopen for many months. But the integrity of the roads is less important than the integrity of ourselves. Many discovered that they were not able to carry the load placed upon them by this crisis. This illumination provides a wonderful opportunity to prayerfully consider steps we can take to improve our integrity or change our responsibilities so as to not buckle under the weight.
We Learn About Our Character
If integrity is the ability to carry the responsibility of the load placed upon something, character is simply the act of doing the right thing. Our character is revealed quickly and undeniably in a crisis. Some horded all the gas, water, milk, bread, etc. they could without regard to the needs of others around them. Before the storm, our Walmart received a whole truck load of water. It was gone in about an hour. I can only imagine the items that went wasted because some people only thought of themselves.
Others, however, left their dry comfortable homes in faraway places, risking life itself, to help strangers. They brought supplies, skills, medicine, food and hope to those that needed it most. They used their personal boats to rescue people whose homes or vehicles succumbed to the flooding. They revealed a type of character that all of us should aspire to.
God Is With Us
Like Peter in Matthew 14, we can walk above the waves as long as we keep our focus on Jesus. When the storm strips everything else away, we can look at the only One standing with perfect peace and tranquility in the midst of the torrent. He is not afraid of that which He commands, and if we are in Him, we need not fear either.