From flood to faith
Last week, the city of Phoenix (and surrounding areas) experienced the most rainfall in a 24-hour period since the early 1900’s. The resulting floods were so bad that many school districts in the area decided to cancel school for the day. Cars on the I-10, the major freeway that runs through Phoenix, were completely submerged in some areas. Needless to say, the flood left its mark on the city. Thankfully, it also left a mark on many hearts, including my own.
Although my family managed to avoid any flood damage, our church family wasn’t as fortunate. On Monday morning, several of the church staff arrived to find the entire sanctuary (800+ seats) submerged in murky water. After the rains subsided, the damage was assessed and massive clean-up efforts continue to this day.
On Wednesday night of that week, I had the great fortune of volunteering, along with a few hundred other people, in an effort to remove each of the seats. Screwdriver in hand, I made my way around the sanctuary, looking to help in any way I could. In what would normally be considered two hours of menial labor, this was an experience that continues to resonate in my heart.
After the church service on Sunday, which was held in a separate part of the building, my daughter witnessed what was left of the sanctuary for the first time (see picture above). When we got in the car to leave, she asked me, “Daddy, how could something bad like this happen to our church?”
In what ended up being a perfect teachable moment, here is what I shared with her.
God can use any experience (good or bad) to teach us how to love.
Sometimes it takes setbacks to strip us to our core, which I believe is love. Perhaps you remember the days following September 11, 2001? Do you recall feeling closer to complete strangers than you ever had before? I certainly do.
As I was working in the sanctuary that night, the loving energy in the room was palpable. You see, there were no pretenses about who was doing what or how many more chairs I was able to remove than another person; it was just pure, raw love. Everyone in the room (many of whom were from different church denominations) was working for something bigger than themselves, and it was all fueled by love.
Just around the corner of a tragedy is an opportunity for a triumph.
I explained to Emerson that there is no “rewind” button in life. We can’t go back and change past events, tragedies or not. What we can do; however, is adopt a triumphant mindset and move forward in faith. It would have been easy for the church (and its members) to adopt a victim mentality and commiserate over the damage, but they used it as an opportunity to triumph. Because of this mindset, the collective focus quickly shifted from flood to faith.
We can’t control the weather, but we can learn to dance in the rain.
As a native Oregonian, I’ve experienced my fair share of rain storms. I will admit; however, that over the years I grew to complain quite a bit about the frequency of rain. In many cases, I would allow it to affect my mood. What I failed to realize is that I had absolutely no control over the rain, yet I had complete control over whether or not I chose to dance in it. You see, we all have rainstorms in our lives. The purpose of a storm is not to discourage us, but rather to encourage and strengthen us in preparation for future storms. This is the essence of spiritual and emotional resilience.
I invite you to apply these lessons to your own storms. The storms themselves are inevitable, but the way you respond to them will always be your choice. Choose powerfully.