My trust in God flows out of the experience of his loving me, day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I’m sick or in good health, whether I’m in a state of grace or disgrace. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am.
Prologue: Today is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina ripping through Louisiana, causing chaos and destruction with every gust of wind and rain. The storms that ravished through the south all of those years ago made a profound impact on my young life. Two months after the storms, I went with a group of men from the church I was a member of and did relief work for a week. In that week, I saw things that will be etched in my mind forever, relationships were formed, and I grew into a man. Three years later, I wrote the following reflection for a blog that I was a regular contributor. I don’t always find myself agreeing with many of what I’ve written in the past, but this piece still resonates strongly within my soul:
As a writer, one of my biggest areas of struggle and frustration is the opening lines of whatever I write. I’ve heard it said in my English courses in college that if you cannot grab the attention of your reader in your first couple of lines, they will not continue on with your piece of writing. That being said, my introduction is difficult to write because of the weight of what I am going to write about because of the tears of joy and sadness that have come forth from my eyes about this subject.
Three years ago, I was a nineteen year old boy who was working full time at a certain coffee shop named after a character in Moby Dick in order to help out my family during a financial crisis that had come our way. My older sister was off studying at L’Abri in Switzerland and we had just celebrated our one year anniversary of becoming members of a local church in Gilbert. I, along with many Americans watched the news of the twin hurricanes that had come and destroyed New Orleans. I watched the news with a certain level of interest because two years previously, I had gone to Louisiana to teach a goverment and politics class for high schoolers. Upon returning to Arizona, I had told my family that I would love to return to this state because the people there had given me a level of comfort that I had not experienced anywhere, including my own state. This sense of community will stick with me for the rest of my life.
The Sunday following the news of Katrina’s destruction, our pastor had announced that our church was going to partner with another church to assist with the relief efforts down south. He further announced that we would be having a meeting to discus more specific roles after the service on Sunday and to pray and speak with your family before attending. Since I was the lone representative of my family, I didn’t have anyone to consult; I quickly made my way to the meeting and noticed that I was a boy among men. We received details about the trip, our pastor reminded us again that we should pray and consult our wives before embarking on this adventure. Originally, I had received this time off from work due to a previous engagement, but when I mentioned my new plans to my mother, my manager and the director of the other engagement, I was given yes’s across the board like judges on American Idol. The weeks went by very quickly leading up to my departure, but on October 1st, 2005, I left my home in Chandler, onto a plane, into an adventure that would stick with me for the rest of my life. As I tried to fall asleep on the airplane, I scribbled down a few thoughts before falling asleep:
It feels like for the last few hours, I’ve tried to sleep but to avail. the mobsters around me, keep talking out loud, thank you Lord for allowing me to have a row to myself. Right now it has been announced that we’re starting our decline in height towards our destination of Detroit, Michigan.
Earlier in the flight, I was able to roughly see the stars God put the sky. I say roughly because my eye condition and the dark blanket of the cabin lights. My gaze was interrupted due to the pain that lies within my stomach.
This medication the flight attendant gave me tastes like the stuff at dentist offices, they make you gargle for endless centuries – or at least your toleration of it continues. Oh well, its done its duty and my stomach feels better, but my mind is unable to shut down at the moment.
As the airplane continues its decent, a sermon by Mark Driscoll is ringing in my head. He mentions in the sermon that young boys and young men are fascinated with sporting events but older men are fascinated with war. This is what my mind begins to mediate on while the pink pill is swirling around in my stomach. This journey that brings me back to Louisiana, this part of the state that hurricanes have caused destruction and chaos, visually has been compared to the aftermath of a war. Because of the danger of the trip, I’ve been advised not to partake in assistance because it’s someone else’s job.
However, the question still lingers, why did I enlist to assist complete strangers in a state far from my own?
Could it be for approval from my peers?
Women? (I know that isn’t a possibly, I hope)
The only answer that puts my mind at ease as we begin to taxi the airport, is this. In times of tribulation, everything I hold dearly in life, I count as lost. So that I might follow the Saviour without any distractions this world tries to entice me with. this world has everything for me yet this world has nothing for me.
Because where He calls me to follow, I will go.
During my week in New Orleans, I saw many things, homes destroyed, personal possessions lost, friendships built and hope displayed. I remember being in amazement at the fact that these families had lost so much but yet their faith in Christ was unshaken. One family stood out to me because even though they had lost the only home that they had known (it was the father’s childhood home), because they still had each other and they still had Jesus, they were not shaken. This made an impact on my young life, as one who held his possessions in high regard.
Now three years later, the church in Louisiana that I came and served is going to be moving into a new building at the beginning of November. I was fortunate to see many of the families I had helped this past February as my sister gave me a surprised birthday trip out there. However, in these last three years, I look back and see this trip as one that was used for making me more mature and more Christ-like. That is because there have been many storms coming to test my faith and see if I truly believe that Christ is over every situation either seen or unseen. That’s the beauty of having storms come into our lives, they are meant to mold and shape us, some might be destructive like failed relationships and battles with depression or smaller ones like moving out of my parents home or juggling full time work and full time school. In all these storms, it is helpful to look back and see the steadfast love of our Lord. It is difficult to see His Hand in them, but with confidence I acknowledge that they and many more have been used to remind my soul that it is on the solid rock which is Christ, I stand and all other pursuits are shifting sands. It was difficult to come home three years ago because I didn’t feel that God was using me in my situation, but God brought up storms to mature me and mold me into the image of His Son. I mentioned at the beginning of this I was a boy, I truly believe that this experience was one that shaped me into a man. Yet, through my time in Louisiana, the Lord used it to remind me of the following verse and how it rings it true, no matter what storm comes our way:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”—Lamentations 3:22-24