They warned us all week that we’d be seeing some severe weather on Saturday. And it showed up right on schedule. But what the weather forecasters couldn’t have predicted were the 11 tornados that hit the Dallas Ft. Worth area. Or the catastrophic loss of property, homes and even lives.
Indeed, we are all reeling from the devastation. Especially now, in the light of day, as we begin to see so much footage of the all the damage. Now that our timelines are beginning to flood with posts, pictures, videos and prayer requests from people we know who were directly affected.
But you know, every time I watch news stories, read posts and watch video about people experiencing life-altering tragedies like these I realize something. Simply, that we’re often so far removed from it that we really can’t wrap our minds around what it’s like for the people going through it. Sure, we see it and our hearts go out to them on some level. We offer up prayers and sympathy. But we really just can’t truly understand, many of us, what they’re feeling. And truth be told, all too quickly we’re on to our normal lives very soon after the public expressions of prayers and sympathy.
I saw a video earlier posted by Captain Jack, a blues musician whom I’ve been connected to since the MySpace era. Always a happy, up-beat guy. I watched as he pleaded in tears for prayers for his community, most of whom had lost everything, including him. The scene behind him looked like a war zone. He talked about how unprepared he was to deal with what had happened to him and his community. How unbelievable it was. He talked about how he’d seen pictures and videos of war zones on tv but now he finally understood what it was like to stand in the middle of that kind of devastation.
Later I watched as a news reporter interviewed a guy who went out to catch a movie and came home to find his home completely destroyed. The reporter literally followed him into his house to show the damage. The camera panned around the house to take in all the extensive damage. Then it slowly panned upward to reveal a clear shot of the sky, as the entire roof of his house was gone.
I see the accounts, I feel for them, I pray for them. But I can’t fully come to terms with or even begin to truly relate to it. Because in all my life I’ve never experienced something anywhere near that level of tragedy. And I’ll tell you something else I struggle with as I sit here in my apartment, completely unscathed and not really touched at all by this whole thing. With all my loved ones and close friends accounted for and completely ok. And also pretty-much unscathed.
I struggle, at least on some level, with the reality that it was them and not me or any of mine. Yes, I’m thankful and so incredibly grateful. But at the same time I find it hard to immediately justify it with the same rationale so many of people of faith go to when they are spared tragedy while others suffer it. You know what I mean. The “favor” card. Because while I’m always, always thankful when situations don’t touch me or those I love, I understand that it’s not simply because I’m living such a good life in the eyes of God that He simply doesn’t allow such things to come near me.
See, I can’t really rationalize that when I see people who are walking this thing better than me being affected too. Like the pastor who had stopped by his church to pick up a few things only to have the whole thing basically fall in on top of him. Years of work with his own hands, ruined. His wife waiting for him in the car terrified both for his life and her own. Surely he deserved a favor pass. Or at least his church, right?
But I guess the hardest thing to understand about all of this is the fact that it isn’t meant for us to understand. T.D Jakes said once that favor isn’t fair. And I remember thinking to myself “well that isn’t fair either”. But I guess that’s why the bible goes out of its way to refer to it as “unmerited”, meaning undeserved.
My efforts to get a more clear understanding of “unmerited favor” from a biblical sense only led to more confusion. Some scholars believe favor is the Grace of God. Others believe that favor is the mercy of God and that Grace is the power of God; which is something completely different.
The one thing I’m sure of about Favor though is that I don’t deserve it. None of us do. We don’t deserve to be spared many things that God keeps from our doorstep, but He spares us anyway. Yet He chooses to allow others to endure them. We’ll never be able to rationalize the whys behind those decisions. Some questions just don’t have an answer, and I don’t think they were meant to.
Still though, I needed to come to terms with the thoughts and feelings I was having. So I was kinda searching around the internet to see what I could find. The closest thing I saw was a condition called “Survivor’s Guilt”. I think the name pretty-much explains the condition so I won’t get into it.
But I don’t think that really speaks to what I feel in times like this. You see I don’t feel guilty that I, my family members and close friends were spared during this terrible storm. I guess if there’s any guilt at all present it’s the feeling that when I express sympathy and offer prayers it’s just not real enough. Or deep enough, or heart-felt enough. That even though I feel sadness for people whose lives are affected by such tragedies, at least some part of me must be saying it on some superficial “normal protocol” level. I suppose that goes back to what I said earlier about being so far removed from such tragedies that we can never truly feel what the people affected by them are feeling.
But after today I for one feel like I need to at least make an earnest attempt to be a lot less cavalier about it. Not just with my expressions of sympathy, but my expressions of gratitude and thanks. To really petition God with real prayers. The kind that we normally reserve for when it IS us or one of our loved ones. Not the kind that ends with the period at the end of the Facebook comment. And on at least some level, to offer help beyond saying a prayer. Because as many times as God has given me favor I didn’t deserve, that’s the very least I can do when He decides to do it yet again.