Hurricane Matthew spun its angry wheel of destruction and death toward Haiti, a destitute Caribbean country where my only child, my son-in-law and my 7-month old grandson live.
For two days, it was hard to breathe. I felt as though I desperately needed to hold onto something, anything at all that was remotely secure and comforting, and the only thing available was air.
There was nothing I could do. I could not stop the storm. I could not protect the people whose lives I cherish beyond anything reasonable or measurable. I could not make sure there was safe shelter for the thousands of poor people who live in rickety homes and grow their own food on a strip of land that hangs vulnerably out in the open ocean and was the target of the murderous storm.
I could not do one single thing about the storm that was headed toward my children in Haiti, and taking place in my heart, except pray and ask others to do the same.
It’s a hard, almost impossible position to be in as a mom. Even when your children are grown, your very being strains to make sure they are safe whenever there is risk. Worry and fear are inherent and automatic attributes we receive the second a child is born and they do not dissipate over time; they might change in their focus but they are as much a part of us as our heartbeat.
The situation was 100 percent out of my control.
As is much of life.
A sweet friend experienced the clutching of air when she went to see her obstetrician at 8 ½ months pregnant and found out her fully formed baby boy had died suddenly and inexplicably in the womb that morning, sometime after she woke and felt him kick her good morning. Another is now facing that impossible scrambling to fix the unfixable after her husband walked out with no warning and filed for divorce three weeks later, leaving her bewildered and broken with children to care for and no way to do it.
Control is a complex animal that teases us every day. We think we own it, that it gives us power over our lives in a world that we know can snap at any time. But it’s false power and a false promise. When we leave our house, we have no control over everybody else on the road and how well or poorly they drive. We can’t guide our husbands’ thoughts at work. We are powerless to direct or alter a single word said to our children at school. We are clueless as to what our neighbors might do at any given moment, or a family member or bill collector.
Whether our husband walks out, or our children are facing a hurricane in a country where no one is safe and there’s nowhere to hide, the default mode to recognizing our lack of control is panic. While I waited in front of the TV for the storm to make it’s agonizingly slow trek across Haiti, I could feel my spirit jumping around inside my body. I had to continually fight my fear of the what-ifs that threatened my sanity.
Control is a complex animal that teases us every day.
So I got on my knees. When I cannot make sense of my world and I cannot fix my circumstances or those of people I love, I have to trust the God who is in control. I know for some people that can sound trite or cliché in the midst of horrible life situations, but it’s still true no matter how mad, sad or scared we are. He is the Creator of heaven and earth and every single human being that ever lived, lives now or will be born in the future. He created us to love him and be loved by him. We turned our backs on him at the beginning of time, and he continues to let us have our own way and make our own decisions. But, ultimately, he holds all the cards and can change a situation at any given moment. And we must ask, hopeful, even while not knowing his answer.
Just before I sat down to write this morning, I put on some music by Chris McClarney. As I opened my laptop, I heard these words: “God of miracles come, we need your supernatural love.” Not, “We need you to fix our husband, straighten up our wayward child, get me that new job I want.” Just, “we need your supernatural love.”
Now, I freely admit that not only did I ask God to spare my children from the hurricane, I begged and pleaded with tears streaming down my face. It’s OK to pray for all those things we want! But what we need most is to pray for God’s love, because that is the only thing that will get us through a disastrous event or traumatic change in our life. It’s the only thing that will calm fear, and assure us that we’re not alone. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that will get a mom of four little kids through a morning!
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’”
(Psalm 46:1-3 and 10).
My daughter shared this Scripture with her friends the day after the hurricane. Her family and coworkers miraculously escaped any damage where they live, and dozens of their Haitian friends who live nearby did as well. But until it was over, she was preparing herself to grieve the loss of people she has grown to care deeply about during her three years in Haiti. I’ve been there and met these precious men and women and children; they are joyful, grateful, kind souls. I can’t imagine going to visit and not being enveloped in their strong hugs and my spirit warmed by their huge smiles.
But the immediate relief that my family and everyone they know were safe did not stop any of us from continuing to pray. We knew information would soon come about the horrific aftermath, and that others would need our prayers: people who lost homes, loved ones, friends and neighbors, and relief workers who would go into supersonic mode trying to purchase and deliver supplies to the area.
But what we need most is to pray for God’s love, because that is the only thing that will get us through a disastrous event or traumatic change in our life. It’s the only thing that will calm fear, and assure us that we’re not alone.
So I have stayed on my knees. Not all my prayers are being answered the way I want. But some are, and no matter the results I know God is in charge, he is good, and he wants me to keep asking. In doing so, my knees get sore, but my heart finds rest.
You Can Help.
Close your eyes for just a moment and picture your home. Imagine that the roof has been ripped off, all the windows and doors blown out, and all your possessions are destroyed or washed away. The same is true for your neighborhood, and your entire town, so you can’t find anyone who could offer you a cup of water.
In Haiti’s southern Tiburon peninsula, Hurricane Matthew completely destroyed not only thousands of homes but also orphanages, churches, schools, hospitals and crops. Wells filled with seawater, and water filtration systems were decimated. In some places, like Jeremie, where there are dedicated American missionaries, 80 percent of the village was destroyed. There is no water or food for as many as 1 million children, nursing moms, elderly, or men who are strong enough to start cleaning up and repairing their towns. Even those who were evacuated to shelters (these are not like American shelters; they have no air conditioning or flushing toilets) are without fresh food, water and basic medical supplies. By day 5, people were starting to die from hunger and cholera.
The main bridge to the region was washed away and a raging river took its place, prohibiting any trucks from bringing in help. It took four days for the first barge full of food, water and medicine to arrive. Imagine waiting on a neighboring state to feed your entire city of homeless and hungry residents—that’s what it’s like in southern Haiti right now.
Much more help is needed. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to Haiti One, a partnership of more than 400 Christian and relief agencies in Haiti. One hundred percent of your contribution will go directly to purchase and deliver food, water, medical supplies and laborers to the areas decimated in the storm. If you feel led to help, you can make a secure, tax-deductible donation at www.mohhaiti.org/relief.
You’ll also like Mother Teresa’s Hope for the Faithless Days, Taking Heart, Even When Tragedy Hits, Clichés to When Dealing With Trouble, Freedom in Faith, and My God in the Darkness.