I tend to take the words of those who have been-there-done-that with a little more weight than those who have researched a particular topic. There is just something to be said about actually experiencing a place or event. I can read all about Paris, but to see the emotion and reaction of someone who experienced the event is awe-inspiring. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the magazines and blogs about Paris, but to talk to someone who has been in the city of lights, or anywhere on the map, is a story in itself. Sometimes the stories or experience isn’t as romantic as Paris. At times the story is hard. You can see the pain or regret in the eyes of the storyteller or hear it in the tone of voice. Heartache comes out in many forms and can still have a reaction many years later.
In July of 2005, I sat in my apartment with my roommates and rode out the hurricane. At the time, the news reporters told us that Cindy was only a tropical storm, but later she was upgraded to a hurricane. It was a fun night. The power went out on campus, so my friends and I were eating cold queso dip and chips while playing Phase 10 by candle light. It was a night of laughs, rain watching, and good memories. Cindy was barely Category 1 hurricane, and as someone who grew up in Houston with hurricanes just about every year, it didn’t seem like that big of deal. The Cindy celebration, or Cindy-bration, was really fun and what most Southerners do when hurricanes do hit. On a side note, it is amazing to me that from June 1st until November 1st most Southerners are amatuer meteorologists. We know the storm’s projection is better calculated after it hits Cuba or the Florida keys. We’ve been there and lived through it, so we are able to speak more to storm watching because we have had first hand experience.
Fast forward a few months, I’m at work at a French Quarter restaurant getting ready to check out for the night. Some of the waitstaff is looking at this hurricane on the computer and talking about the projection of the storm. I can still remember the amount of red on the screen showing the winds and rainfall that went along with her. The words evacuation were being thrown around, but I didn’t think anything of it. I finished my checkout and went back to my apartment. When I got home, I was talking to my roommate asking if she knew about this hurricane in the Gulf. Mind you, I didn’t watch the news. Between all my studies for grad school and work, I really didn’t have time to watch the news. This was also the pre-Facebook and smartphones era. I couldn’t check my news feed for the latest reports. I didn’t have my iPhone to be notified of breaking news. I had a Razor flip-phone. I could barely send photos let alone get on the internet without costing an arm and a leg. Back to the story…
I remember so vividly what my wise roommate, Amy, told me. She responded, “Yes, there is a pretty big hurricane in the Gulf. Yes, we are evacuating. Yes, we are taking your car.” I didn’t have a say in the matter. Amy knew I was stubborn. Amy knew that she would have to make the plans for me if I was going to leave. Amy also knew that my car was the nicer of the two vehicles and would make it to my hometown of Houston. Like I said: Amy was wise.
On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The levees broke. 80% of the city flooded. The city was destroyed. People died. It felt hopeless. We didn’t have Facebook to find our friends. Cell towers were down, so anyone with a 504 area code phone number couldn’t be reached. Even if your friends made it out, you wouldn’t have known because you couldn’t reach them. It was scary, and even today I will still become emotional thinking about how horrible it was. No one was prepared for that kind of storm to hit, but over the past 12 years, New Orleans has rebuilt and has come back stronger.
Fast forward to today. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the city that was once refuge for thousands of displaced New Orleans residents (including myself). The damage is more widespread and more costly than any other storm in recorded history. We see it all over the news. But, unlike Katrina, people were more prepared. Texas grocers, furniture stores, gas stations, and pro-football players stepped up ready to go in order to help the people around them. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana came over just to get people out of their houses with their fishing boats. You can check in on Facebook to let people know you are safe. Yes, there is A LOT of devastation and damage, but in my opinion, I feel like we learned from the lack of preparation from Katrina over the past 12 years and gave ourselves a fighting chance when Harvey came to town.
To me, one of the most heart-warming stories out of the Harvey disaster is how local businesses in New Orleans are raising funds to help hurricane victims. “They helped us in our time of need. We know what they are going through. The least we can do is return the kindness,” said one NOLA business owner. Bring on the tears. I can honestly say that I empathize with those in Houston right now. I know the feelings of fear and unsettledness that happens after going through a natural disaster. Here’s the thing: we will go through hardships which make us able to relate to those who are suffering and realize that they and we aren’t alone.
I can talk about my shortcomings, failures, hardships, and success because I have had them all. In the midst of the not-so-good times, I’ll admit that I asked God why. Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this? Why aren’t you taking me out? Though we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are not immune to heartache. Christ Himself endured hardships, death, loss, and grief.
If Christ has gone through so much that we can relate to Him, as an ambassador of the Lord, why would I think that I would not go through similar hardships as the One I am representing? How can I portray the hope that God gives in the midst of a horrible situation if I haven’t gone through and come out the other side. There will be scars. There will be tears that still come back even after 12 years or more. There will be work and rebuilding. As Christine Caine has said in Propel Women, “Scars show that something has healed, not that it is still injured.” Hold strong. Share your story. Let people see your scars and know that through Christ you came out okay. Don’t be ashamed of what you have overcome through the power of our Lord. Because someone else will need you to be that wise person who tells them to get out at the right time or to help because you really know how it feels. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)” There is bad stuff in this world because sin is in this world. All of creation, even the oceans, long to see Christ’s return (See Romans 8). Don’t allow the horrible crap in this world deter you from doing good. Fight bad and evil by doing more good.
Tell your story. Share your hope. Love like Jesus.