Perhaps it's too soon. The debris is still strewn, the cuts barely bandaged, the loss not fully realized. As we prepared for the storms this past Friday, I prayed. I worried, but I prayed. As my family huddled in a bathroom crammed with kids, a dog, and a twin mattress, I prayed. “God be with us. God protect us. Please God, please.”
I imagine the people of West Liberty, Kentucky and Henryville, Indiana did the same.
I've heard it over and over in the aftermath: “God was with us,” and, “God sure did watch over us.”
I know that we all mean well when we say those words and I don't want to diminish them, but I wondered how the victims of Friday’s storms felt. Was God any less watching over them when they lost their homes, loved ones, and even their lives? Was God any less present? Did my house and loved ones being spared reflect my intrinsic worth to God or the depth of my faith? The more I sat with this, the more I thought, "No!"
As I rocked my little boy to sleep, with a roof over my head, my “no!” was echoed by the whisper of God and the cries of Jesus.
I remembered that dreadful moment on the cross when Jesus cries out to His father, "Why have you forsaken me?" There's been much scholarship and time devoted to these words. A common stream of thought is that as Jesus took on the sin of mankind, it was so despicable that God turned away from him.
Well, that's just not my experience with God. I think, and I'm not alone in this, that God was more fully present with Jesus at that point in time than any other. How could God rip away from his own self? After all, we all sin and God is still there, still watching.
It is us who step away. We feel the vast emptiness of pain eating away at us and wonder, “Where are you God?”
God is there in a moment of peace under the crushing pain. God is there when the walls cave, the sky opens, and we lose everything. I see God in the kind help of a stranger, in the offer of shelter from a friend, in the prayers and tears of so many as the pieces of lives are being gathered and the remnants of what was is sewn together with what is.
May we turn to that presence and take comfort there.