We live on the back end of tornado alley. Every spring, severe thunderstorms come through with damaging winds, golf-ball-sized hail, and the possibility of tornadoes. And at least once each spring, we have a severe thunderstorm that prompts me to pull all the luggage out of the closet under the stairs, spread the egg crate foam, open the windows, and wait for the tornado siren closest to our house. If that siren goes off, we get in the closet with the dogs and wait.
One night last week, I got the closet ready and we sat by the windows and listened to all the sirens from the towns around us. While we were listening, 16 tornadoes touched down, south of us in Granbury, Texas. And some people lost everything, including their lives. And then a couple of nights later, it happened again, to the north of us, in Moore, Oklahoma. And some people lost everything, including their lives.
The next morning, Andy woke up and said, "Well, if we reinforced the closet under the stairs..." And we talked about reinforced steel and lengths of u-bolts and things like that for a few minutes and then we kind of looked at each other sheepishly. Because, yeah. The first thing we want to do is guarantee that this won't happen to us.
Because we live on the back end of tornado alley. And it gets scary out here sometimes. And we want to push away the fear by taking control of something. Anything.
And because I'm a writer and a counselor, I like to think and write. And thinking and writing can turn into spiritualization and being all up in my head. Because, yeah. I don't want to really feel what happened to those kids. And to their parents, who were just having a normal spring day.
Because I live on the back end of tornado alley. It's scary. And I want to push the fear away with my supposedly ginormous brain instead of feeling it down in my broken heart.
And then the internet blows up with some theologian who says something and then a bunch of people say something else. And I just look at that and I say, yeah. We all want to guarantee that this won't happen to us. And we want to control it, by our theological correctness.
Because we all live on the back end of tornado alley. And if we can't control it, at least we can be really really really mad at the idiot who doesn't have a clue what God really thinks about all this.
It's very distracting, being busy with fixing things so the bad things won't happen. It's very distracting, being all brainy and spiritual so I don't have to feel the bad things. It's very distracting, being mad at the idiots of this world who clearly have gotten it wrong. Again.
All that stuff keeps us from feeling sad. It keeps us from feeling scared.
It keeps us from being connected with our own emotions, which seems like a good idea at the time.
But then it keeps us from being connected with the emotions of others, too. And, over time, that turns into a big problem.
When we get disconnected from our own emotions, and from the emotions of other people, we find ourselves thinking and doing all kinds of crazy things, instead of the really important things.
My friend Lisa teaches first grade, and this is part of her Facebook status from that night when the tornado struck Moore.
I can't help but think of the children in Moore, who woke up this morning thinking about starting a new week, finishing the end of the school year, and probably making plans for summer, yet their plans were cut short. Selfishly, I hope nobody in class wants to talk about it tomorrow, but I am sure that will not be the case. Honestly, if they ask about the tragedy, it would be easier to lie to them and tell them it would never happen here, that we all will be just fine. However, since they seem to be able to see through my sugarcoating of situations, I will repeat the same truths I have said all year during the school shooting, the Boston bombing, the fertilizer explosion, and even parts of it after the death of a student's parent: 1) Safety and preparedness are the reason we practice all our drills. 2) I love them and will do whatever is in my power to keep them safe. 3) God is our rock and our strength and we need not fear anything. 4) Should a tragedy happen, I know someday we will dance and sing together in heaven again. And strangely enough, in His perfect wisdom (at least so far) that has given us all peace to carry on.
And that is one of the best things I've ever read, about what it means when we wake up the morning after, needing to keep walking. She cuts right through all the crap of things I'm tempted to do in the face of tragedy, and reminds me of what's really important.
We make ourselves willing to move beyond the world of control and easy answers and angry disconnection.
We make ourselves willing to live with tragedy and the fragile uncertainty of life.
We admit that we don't know and we can't stop it. And we resolve to love with all our hearts, anyway.
We do what we can, because that's what we're told to do.
We prepare. We love. We trust. We hope.
We weep with those who weep, we mourn with those who mourn. We bear burdens with those who have too much to bear.
We make whatever little bit of peace on earth we can, while we wait for the Prince of Peace to come.