Hurricane Laura pushed into our home in central Louisiana around 3:00 a.m. She had crashed into southwest Louisiana earlier as a Category 4 storm and had dropped to Category 2 by the time the winds were felling our trees, downing our power lines, and rattling our house.
I am the bishop of this part of Louisiana. Whether people are on the membership rolls of an Episcopal Church or not, it’s our tradition and my personal approach to view them all as my people. I belong to them and they belong to me. Their lives and their well-being cannot be separated from mine.
I’m not special in this. This is just how Anglicans have looked at their neighbors for centuries. And as we see what needs to be done to restore our communities, we will lend our hands and feet to the work.
Reports have been coming in to me and to my small, dedicated Disaster Response Team. Extensive power outages, spotty cell coverage, and lack of access to the internet makes communication difficult.
But what I’ve heard so far is overwhelming. The destruction is massive and the depth of personal loss is heartrending. Recovery will take weeks, months, even years for some.
We Christians are people of the Paschal Mystery. Previously, I would have said that we are people of the resurrection. And in truth we are, but stating this truth in isolation is misleading. The resurrection is part of the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
Suffering, loss, and death lay along our way. Living in the aftermath of a hurricane reminds us that there is no rising without dying. Jesus himself said as much: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
The key, says Jesus, is to die before we are dead. To die to our illusions of control and self-sufficiency. To our addictions to achievement and status, comfort and consumption. To lay to rest an ego-centered, ego-serving way of life.
This is how we surrender and entrust ourselves to a power beyond and greater than ourselves. We take hold of our true selves as radically contingent beings, dependent upon God for every nanosecond of our very existence.
When the Psalmist says that God is “my light and my salvation,” “the stronghold of my life” (Ps. 27:1), this is what I hear. Not that God will prevent trees from falling on my house or a storm surge from sweeping away our Main Street.
Instead, I hear—and at my best moments I experience—that none of life’s tragedies or terrors can separate me from the love of God, the love that gives me a different kind of life. An eternal life that starts on this side the grave and extends beyond it in ways I can only imagine.
So in these days and weeks, months and years after the hurricane, I will share in the suffering and the loss of my neighbors, using my heart and my head, my hands and my feet in the work of restoration and recovery.
And in concert we will sense within ourselves and recognize in each other a new kind of life emerging. A life with the feel of eternity.
All images drawn from the CNN story found here.