I was eighteen when hurricane Fredrick slammed into the mouth of Mobile Bay. We knew it was coming and prepared the best we knew how. My maternal grandmother came up from her home right down on the bay to stay with us in the city. Her husband would not come, determined to wait it out and attend to any damage. We were not really surprised. He was a Navy veteran who had seen his share of violent storms.
Knowing we would lose power and possibly water, we had stocked nonperishable food, put batteries in flashlights and radios, gathered candles, and filled all the bathtubs and a good number of containers with water. We feasted on a hot meal (making wry remarks about the last supper) and settled down to wait. I was particularly comforted by my dad’s voice, soft in prayer. A sound that never failed to convince me that God was not only able but also close by. Dad talked to God like he would a man, an intimate friend, sitting next to him: engaged, vulnerable, and passionate. I went to sleep.
The aftermath was worse than we imagined and also strangely less devastating than we imagined. The top of the huge pine tree in our back yard was sitting straight up in the middle of the road in the front of our house, as though it had grown right out of the asphalt. That we had no lasting roof damage and no blown out windows was a marvel to us all.
We were without power for two weeks and without water for almost a month. Church friends from Mississippi sent a truck load of food and dry ice (my dad has just purchased a side of beef that was in the outdoor freezer). That dry ice made it possible for us to feed the neighborhood. That beef wasn’t going to waste, and it seemed every night was like a block party. Mom and Dad fired up the grill and served some of the best grilled meat ever tasted. There wasn’t anything mom wouldn’t try cooking on that grill. I seem to remember a cobbler she managed in a tin-foil pouch.
Day after day we were up early to see who needed help and to lend a hand with clearing out debris and checking on the old folk. We helped people pack who had to move. We made the rounds to stand in lines at grocery stores to apprehend what was available. In the evenings, we gathered in the living room to play cards or sing while my dad played the piano.
It was a brief time, really, but a time when we experienced the unique strength of a community bound by common circumstances and the willingness to help each other. There was a sense of God’s pleasure through it all, and an understanding that we are always more than the sum of our parts when God is at work. There is a verse in Colossians that comes to mind. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29 ESV) We were toiling, for sure. The days were long and full of physical labor. We were infused with energy, though. And we knew it was an energy given by God.
Many life-long friendships were forged during that time. Many life-sustaining connections made for the benefit of families and communities. And there were men and women of prayer who stood in the gap as they were called by God to do. Life on planet earth is hard, sometimes, even tragic. But we are here fighting the good fight and living unto God, quickened by His energy and sustained by His joy.
Whatever you are facing, dear One, there is more to the story than you know. The work of God for the redemption of men is inexorable. He will not be denied. And He will use every catastrophe, every minor frustration, to reach our hearts, teach us how to really live, and show us His great love.
Until next week, beloved, labor on in the love of Christ.