I’ll never forget my friend Josh Lane picking me up and carrying me through rubble and downed power lines to get to my parents’ house 30 minutes after a tornado did epic damage to my hometown.
At the time, I was a college student living on campus 20 minutes away. I tried reaching my family, and I couldn’t get in touch with them. In those pre-cell phone days, the fear accompanying the “not knowing” was prolonged. Even though our county was still under a tornado warning, and I’d heard on the radio that one of the entrances into my hometown was barricaded, I decided to hop in my old blue Toyota Camry and haul tail home. I could not stand the not knowing. I had to see my sisters and my parents in person.
Three of my good friends from college knew I was nuts for driving in my old cruddy car through all that mess, but they were crazy enough to go along with me for the ride.
After reaching the house, we went inside and called out names. No one answered. Planks had pierced the kitchen walls, knocking countless dishes to the floor, and shards of glass and random personal objects were askew throughout the house. As my friend Josh threw open the door to one of my sister’s bedrooms, he exclaimed, “Oh my gosh. Look what happened in here.”
“Oh no, that’s not from the tornado. That’s just how messy she is,” I laughed in relief.
When we entered my parents’ bedroom, we saw the worst of it. The roof was completely gone. But in the middle of my parents’ bed, all our pets huddled together, too afraid to move despite the rain soaking their fur.
Minutes later, my parents arrived. They’d been out of town that day and had headed home when they heard what was going on since my sisters were at home alone. My older sister had the wisdom to stop by the house and take my two younger sisters with her to seek shelter at the high school gymnasium, which has plenty of underground shelter.
Everyone was fine.
But the clean-up process took months. The insurance company dragged its feet. We kept finding sentimental objects destroyed, or worse yet, missing. I spent most of my free time at home, helping my parents dig through the rubble, repair fences, itemize losses, and rebuild a home from what seemed like one huge pile of mess.
Each night, when I came back to campus, most of my friends and the rest of the student body were happily encased in the college campus bubble. I felt incredibly alone in the aftermath.
One night, at our campus ministry meeting, a friend who knew about my hometown and the damage there asked, “How’s life?”
“It’s pretty bad right now,” I responded truthfully.
“But God is good.”
He is. He sent angels in the form of friends and church folks to help repair damage. He enabled my parents to pay off their home due to the extent of the damages incurred. And we didn’t lose each other–just things, objects that ultimately mean absolutely nothing.
The day after the tornadoes in Oklahoma, I’m reminded of the gamut of emotions I felt all those years ago. I want to do whatever I can to help them. I’m praying for the people who’ve been affected and lost their homes, their vehicles, their livelihoods. Their children.
I don’t know what that feels like.
All I know is that in my own life, if I let Him, He takes every disgusting, heartbreaking episode and transforms it into something breathtaking, useful, and meaningful. This is my prayer for the people who’ve lost what can never be replaced. And that someday, they will be reunited with the people who’ve passed on in a Place Where There Are No More Tears (Revelations 21:4).