On December 26, 2015, my wife, Kasi, and I had dinner at a local restaurant with our young children right before I was to leave town to speak at a church two hours south of our home town of Rowlett, Texas. After dinner, as I kissed my family goodbye, a storm was moving in—thunder, lightning, wind.
After about an hour on the road, my wife called and said, “The kids and I are in the bathroom because there is a tornado warning with sirens going off.” Seven minutes later, Kasi called back saying, “A tornado has hit our town, there is no electricity, our house has been hit with debris, while also busting out a window. It’s bad, and I’m leaving with the kids to check on my grandmother.”
I made a U-turn and drove frantically back.
At that time, I had no idea what would transpire. A storm producing multiple tornadoes touched down in Ovilla, Garland, Rowlett, Copeville and Blue Ridge. Sadly, there would be 11 fatalities, dozens of injuries, hundreds of homes destroyed, thousands of people displaced and millions of dollars in damage.
However, there have been many incredible reminders brought to the surface amid this very difficult tragedy. Here are at least five that come to mind:
1. Life is to be appreciated and valued: If nothing significant would have happened on that weekend, I would have returned home after speaking at the church on Sunday, kissed my wife and kids, and would have known mentally how important they are. However, after a tragedy and scare like that, I am reminded that they are very, very, very important. Life is fragile. Every day and every breath is truly a gift from God to be valued and appreciated. The night of the tornado, while hunkered down in the bathroom, a piece of a 2×4 plank of wood flew through the back window like a rocket landing right in front of our family couch with glass shattering and exploding all over the very furniture. My wife and kids were sitting there just minutes earlier.
2. Friends, neighbors and family are precious treasures: There is an old saying that says, “You’ll know who really cares about you when tragedy hits.” Time and time again, we’ve thanked God for family, friends and church family through times of difficulty. Ideally, you “know” they’re important, but when tragedy hits and you truly need them, and they are there, you “see” and “experience” their importance first-hand. You want to know the difference between family, friends and acquaintances? Let disaster hit, and they’ll reveal their identities. Be thankful for those precious treasures that show themselves as friends, family and church family.
3. It’s not always stranger danger: I know, out of fear, we teach our kids to stay away from strangers. However, there are times that God shows himself through the kindness of strangers. It’s one thing for friends, family or church family to go out of their way to help and be a blessing. But, when an absolute stranger does it, it evokes a whole new awe and wonder. Often, the news and media can make you feel like the world has gone mad, but the kindness of strangers can be a calming reminder that God is still in control and that his love still dwells in the hearts of many.
4. Most of our fighting is silly: Let’s be honest, when it comes to church, there are some things worth fighting about, such as the Bible being the inerrant Word of God, Jesus being God, his crucifixion and resurrection, He is the only way to be saved, etc. However, most of the arguing between churches, organizations and ministries is because of secondary issues that cause unnecessary division. But during a tragedy, no one cares about those things. There is no fighting over styles of music, isolation because of dress codes or debates over predestination. It’s a great reminder that the Family of God gets a lot more done together than it does being in factions.
5. The biggest tragedy is when it takes a tragedy to remember what’s really important: The loss of life is devastating, the lost of shelter and possessions is painful, but when it takes a tragedy to cause us to remember what’s truly important … that’s a tragedy, indeed. If we’re honest, life can become so familiar to us that we take friends, family and church for granted. We don’t take the time to notice the kindness of strangers, and we fight over things that don’t really matter. However, a tragedy becomes a huge blessing when it causes us to be more thankful, caring, generous and unified. When these storms change and transform us into something more than we were; we can say with confidence, “God, thank you for the storm because now I appreciate the sunshine a little bit more!”
Let us not forget the lessons that have been learned and the reminders we’ve recaptured. For, if we forget and return to the mundane, then all the loss and heartache is for nothing, the storm wins and tragedy is truly experienced.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28