TORNADOES RAISE QUESTIONS by Rector Chris Girata
FORGIVE YOURSELF was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, #22 | October 25, 2019
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
And then slowly, pictures of wrecked homes and upturned cars began to stream on social media. As I scrolled through pictures and texted with friends, the devastation became clear. The storms had tracked straight through North Dallas and out to the east, leaving homes, businesses and lives wrecked in its trail.
I am grateful for the human spirit of resilience and hope that often shines in these dark moments
Whenever storms like those occur, it’s natural to wonder why. One of the most common questions I receive is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Put more generally, we might ask, “Why do bad things happen at all?” We know bad things happen all the time, and we know we are often powerless to prevent them. We know about bad diagnoses that scare us, accidents that do harm and storms that devastate. And yet, I believe in a God of love and love does no harm.
I’m certain that many of you reading this column experience preachers in the media saying something quite different. I’m regularly disappointed to hear preachers claim that bad things happen to those who have angered God. Vengeance is not godly, and to sow fear of God is to miss the invitation that God makes to be transformed by the power of love.
When bad things happen, the best of us rallies in support. I’m aware of dozens of friends who have spent the day cleaning and boxing up precious memories in homes that were destroyed. I can only imagine the heartbreak of sifting through the wreckage of one’s home, but I am grateful for the human spirit of resilience and hope that often shines in these dark moments.
I saw this clearly in the face of a friend who lost their home entirely. As my friend stood in front of the shell of her home only hours after the tornadoes blew through, she said, “We were saved by the grace of God. We are safe. The house is destroyed but all of that’s replaceable.” This detachment from worldly things is not a coping mechanism, nor is it careless. She is detached from the materialism of the world because of her faithfulness – her true, deep belief that what we see is not all there is. God’s reality, God’s sacred truth, is beyond what we can see with our eyes.
God is real and God’s love for us is real. Real love is not forced or coerced but is offered freely. If we do not have the free choice to love or not, then God’s great love story with humanity is flawed. When we choose love, we choose to grow away from the pain and heartbreak of this world and begin to see the divine world now. Put another way, when we choose God, when we choose love, we bring about a little piece of heaven on earth now.
Remember to love one another fiercely, because no matter what we experience in this life, by joining together, love wins.
Over the next days and weeks, please help one another, reminding each other to keep hope even in dark times. Pack a box, bring a meal, say your prayers and offer a hug. Remember to love one another fiercely, because no matter what we experience in this life, by joining together, love wins.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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