Family

May 21 2013
30

in the storm

It was after I had held hands with my daughters and whispered bedtime prayers, after I had folded tiny baby clothes, after I had punched the Start button on the dishwasher, it was after all that when I put my face against the bed and sobbed out the heartbreak of the past few hours.

Earlier in the day, I had picked up my big girls from school a little early, but not because I was fearful of the ominous clouds which promised the fulfillment of the forecast’s prophecy of scary storms. I’m a weathered Oklahoman; it takes a lot more to spook me than angry red splotches on a weather map that serve to warn us of the Severe. No, I picked them up early because I didn’t want to fuss with getting the twins out once the rain set in later.

And so they were here at home with me when the tornado sirens rang through the air here in Oklahoma City. They were here at home with me as we tracked the tornadoes path through our state, watching with me as we saw that we wouldn’t need to head to the basement after all – the storms were all going south.

When the first reports of elementary schools being hit, I shoo’ed them away from the TV. I did this partly because I didn’t want them to be worried over being at school when it stormed, but also partly because I needed some space to cry.

But then the babies needed to be nursed and dinner needed to be made, and so I tried to suck it up as much as I could. I half-listened as we went about our afternoon and evening, pausing to feel my heart splinter as reports came of babies, mamas, preschoolers, grandmothers … dead. Neighborhoods flattened, lives destroyed. I listened as much as I could without falling apart.

But after my girls were in bed and the laundry was done and the dishwasher was started, I saw on the round-the-clock coverage from Moore an interview with a seven year old girl who had survived the tornado hit on Plaza Towers Elementary. I heard this brown haired, well-spoken girl with glasses who looked so much like my eight year old tell of holding onto a desk as the winds ripped the school apart. She said the wind knocked her back and then her glasses filled with dirt.

And in that moment, I wanted to do something more than cry. As I thought of those little ones and their teachers, crouched in hallways and under desks the way I had crouched in hallways and under desks through so many tornado drills, and I imagined being one of the parents desperately searching for information on my children, and I heard they were bringing in cadaver dogs to …

That was it. In that moment, all of the heartache and rage and shock and fear that I had pushed down for hours welled up within me and I felt like I might split open in the face of such horror.

But all that came out as I sobbed into my bed were groans. From that place that we all have that is utterly primal and completely non-verbal came the groaning of the devastation I felt for my fellow Oklahomans, the families that live an easy twenty minute drive from my house. I wanted to scream. I wanted to curse. I wanted to punch the pillow. But all I could muster under the weight of such sadness were tear-filled, heart-emptied groans.

When these things happen, I nearly go cross-eyed with spiritual doubt and theological confusion. If God can control the winds, and surely we know He can, how could He not steer a tornado away from an elementary school? Why would He allow it?  Why does He allow any tornadoes? Where is He in this? The questions swirl until my mouth is dry with the asking.

After I had cried my heart out, I had to make one more trip down into our basement, one last round of laundry to fold. In the cool damp and quiet there, I thought of those verses from Romans 8, the ones where Paul says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, helps us when we don’t know how to pray, that He intercedes for us through wordless groans.

I stood there with my feet on the cold concrete for a long time thinking about that. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when these things happen, these Acts of God, my first response generally involves being furious with God. But I thought about Him in a new way tonight, His Spirit that is so moved by our weakness and frailty that He can merely groan in prayer for us. I thought about how I felt like I could split in two, I was so distraught. To imagine the epic scale on which the Spirit of God aches for His children, that all that comes out are groans …

And then my Facebook feed was filled with prayer and heartache for the people of our state, empathy and angst from around the world. And I felt it there, that elusive thing, that unity that we are always speaking of but can never seem to find. In our shock and confusion and devastation, collectively we groan. And echoing through our hearts and reverberating in our minds, we sense that He never leaves our side, joining His creation in groans too deep for words.

image by gogoloopie

30 comments

  1. I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching it would be to not know where your children are, or even to have come close to being in that situation. Praying for all of you in Oklahmoa.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Thank you, Erika. Your words mean so much.

      Reply
  2. Yes to this, to all of this. I had some moments of too-big, helpless fury at God this morning as well, and sometimes it just feels like too much—the pain in this world too much, the inability to understand God’s role in it too much, the questions too much. Like you, however, I am comforted by the idea of the Spirit groaning unspeakable heart-prayers over us and for us and, on days like today, with us.

    Reply
    • Megan

      For us and with us. Yes. Thank you, Bethany.

      Reply
  3. Oh, friend. Yes, when there are no words, we do groan. Carrying you and your fellow Oklahomans in my heart and prayers.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Sweet friend, thank you for this.

      Reply
  4. Dr. Clark Roush

    I wish so badly the phrase was “acts of nature.” I think it would be easier for people to realize God doesn’t cause these things – they just horrifically and sporadically occur. I love your heart and thoughts. When we refuse to feel pain, we refuse to have God’s heart! May He richly bless your journey, and may He provide you with comfort to share!

    Reply
    • Megan

      Thank you, Dr. Roush. Acts of nature, indeed. Come, Lord Jesus.

      Reply
  5. Stunning and heartbreaking. Thank you for writing this, as only an Oklahoman could write it. And this: “And I felt it there, that elusive thing, that unity that we are always speaking of but can never seem to find. In our shock and confusion and devastation, collectively we groan.” YES.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Thank you, Idelette. To know that the Church universal, the Body collectively is sharing in our pain … it is priceless.

      Reply
  6. brenda

    I know I am not there looking at rubble and wondering where to begin, knowing the weather issues are really not even over for this tornado season BUT let me tell you what a blessing and encouragement it has been to hear all those being spoken with have expressed their faith and reliance on our Heavenly Father. what beautiful testimonies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you Oklahoma for reminding us of what is important.

    Reply
    • Megan

      In times like these, I can only think of the Apostle Peter asking, Lord, to whom shall we go? That’s the only place I know to land.

      Reply
  7. Oh, Megan. So beautifully, heart-wrenchingly done. Brava! We are packing up to return home tomorrow after a wonderful (but tiring) two weeks in Germany and the Czech Republic and have been anxiously watching CNN between touring activities. I am relieved that you were not hit but just overcome with sadness for all those who have lost so very much. Groans are exactly right. Exactly.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Blessings and God speed to you as you journey home, friend. Thank you for keeping us in your hearts.

      Reply
  8. That elusive Unity and Oklahoma spirit is always a part of our family, as I’m the only one of the Penny 4 who isn’t an Okie by birth.

    I went to bed feeling wracked with guilt and groaning myself.

    Reply
    • Megan

      I’ve also struggled with so much guilt. Why do I have a standing house? Why are my children safe? Why do we have electricity and running water? I mostly just have questions and nothing in the way of answers.

      Reply
  9. Sweet friend. Yes. This exactly.

    We stand with you and Oklahoma today. And groan with you. We cannot let you go.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Thank you. Love you.

      Reply
  10. “When these things happen, I nearly go cross-eyed with spiritual doubt and theological confusion”

    It isn’t people that make me question the love of God. I’ve grace of free will and seeing it played out helps me.

    I, too, question when horrific things that can’t be answer with things like “free will” or “temptation.”

    And it’s those things that leave me without words and with weight on my soul.

    Reply
  11. Groaning and praying and questioning with you and loving the people your great state, Megan. I didn’t sleep much last night for thinking of all those families, those mothers and fathers, just suddenly homeless, bedless, without transportation, food, water, basic needs to care for and comfort their terrified children, some of them frantically wondering or already grieving losses. It’s just unthinkable.

    Reply
  12. Yes. I am not from Oklahoma. We have family there, but I have told my husband I could never, ever live there. Bad weather scares me. Even the little thunderstorms that we get sometimes here in California.

    Then I went onto a Facebook page for the people of Oklahoma. I cried, partly because of the devastation, partly because it was so beautiful to see how even when these terrible “acts of nature” occur, there are some truly good people. So many people who have already suffered so much, are willing to give up even more to help a stranger. I saw people post on a few facebook pages that they are opening up their homes to anyone who was a victim of the tornadoes. They are offering free food, free shelter, they are even offering to wash a strangers clothes. The circumstances are sad, but if it weren’t for the hearts of the Oklahoma people, it could be much worse.

    Praying!!

    Reply
  13. Jill

    Groaning with you…wordless on my knees…wrap Your arms around them all Lord Jesus and carry them!

    Reply
  14. Julie

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. Our prayers are with you. I pray the Lord comforts you with peace and uplifts you with His love for you.

    Reply
  15. Dear Megan, I have thought of you much the past few days, you my only real connection to Oklahoma. I am so glad to hear your voice coming through with such strength here. For me, God is not a being who makes anything happen. It is “that elusive thing, that unity that we are always speaking of but can never seem to find.” It’s the love so thick in these times of tragedy that it’s nearly palpable. While I’m never grateful for tragedy, while it so often knocks me to my emotional knees, I’m always grateful for the way it brings that love to a place where I can know it is here.

    Reply
  16. KyCat

    I recently came across the phrase “unutterable groanings” and just reading it sent me to prayer. How true! The things that really matter seem to all be unutterable groanings. I feel it with you now, though I have the safe separation of geography. Sending prayers of peace and love to you,your family and in particular all of those dealing with so much loss. I fear that understanding will have to wait until after death.

    Reply
  17. YES FRIEND YES! When we cry out to God the angels sing. How can we not cry out to Him in this? How can we not drop to our knees? It is in times like these we finally crawl into our Daddy’s lap and let Him hold us. Bitter sweet moments.

    Reply
  18. Dawn

    I’m still in shock. Going through the motions of our days…in a daze, frankly. The kids all a bit clingy without realizing why. This post has left me sobbing. I struggle with guilt and appreciate others putting voice to that issue.

    Reply

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