“Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10
These words have always been a challenge for me. Under normal circumstances I am a do-er
Put me in a crisis and I will do even more. For me it is hard to even contemplate a verse like this. I keep busy, busy, busy and I had always pictured this verse to mean “go and be in some quiet, comfortable and secluded place.” However, that isn’t what it meant at all. In fact, if you read the chapter in its fullness in the Hebrew–it speaks of stopping and knowing that God is God in the midst of the equivalent of a powerful hurricane, or an earthquake rated 10 on the Richter scale. It includes the promise of God’s abiding and loving presence.
The presence of a loved one can help us through even the hardest, scariest, loneliest and saddest times of life–even simple things like a word, a listening ear, a hug or a meal can make such a difference. In this time of stress I encourage you to take time to be still and know that God is God. Even if you are the opposite of me and freeze in a crisis (and neither response nor the middle are right or wrong.) Stop and know that God is God. Thank God for your survival and the survival of friends and family, scream and cry to God about why this has happened again, ask God for help, stop and look at the wonder of God’s stars in the night sky, lighting up the darkness…whatever it is, stop to acknowledge God’s presence no matter how you feel: sad, angry, grateful, stunned, guilty, overwhelmed, exhausted, or numb take some time to remember God is there…because it means you are not alone.
In fact, I have a letter to share with you from my friend and colleague Rev. Katie Black who served in Lake Charles before and after Laura and Delta who wants to remind us we are not alone:
“To our friends and family in Southeast Louisiana (and Mississippi, and all those in Ida’s path),
I’m so sorry. Truly. I wish there was a better way to say it, better words, words of comfort that don’t sound hollow and false in the face of destruction. There probably aren’t. I’m sorry.
Here are some simple words, words that came to me after waking up and feeling my own guts twisting, and not sure what to do next.
-None of this is okay. You don’t have to be either. If all you do today is scroll and watch picture after picture, video after video, street after street, then that’s enough for today. If all you do is put away your phone and play cards and charades and try to ignore it all, that’s enough too. If you decide it’s time to jump in and start somewhere, anywhere, on cleanup and repair, that’s cool too. Drink lots of water and be safe. If all you do today is breakdown a thousand times, please know that you’re not alone. Today is an incredibly difficult day. Treat yourself kindly. And if you meet anyone else too.
-Do the next thing. Your body might well go into survival mode. You may be feeling everything or nothing at all. You may be making a list of everything the insurance company needs or people to check on. Very quickly, your list will get far too long for anyone to manage on a good day, much less a day like today. You don’t have to get it all done today. Make your safety and sanity your priority. The words, ‘do the next thing’ from Patti McAfee Ezell might well have saved me last year in those days of zombie autopilot. It doesn’t have to be much. Once you are safe from physical harm, sometimes the only thing we can do is the next thing. There is no particular order. Your plate today has a million items on it, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Do the next thing. Drink some water. Eat. Check in with one person. Pick up one branch. This will not be a race. You might not get the things done today that you planned. Your energy will run out. Just focus on doing the next thing. And takes breaks when you need them.
-You are loved. You are being held close. People do care. Help is on the way. The best of humanity has a way of following the worst of destruction. Not all help will be perfect and easy and done in the timing that you’d prefer, but seeing people pour out their blood, sweat, and tears (and yes, their money too) is a balm beyond words in this dark place. Let them help. It’s okay if you accept a hot meal even though you have pop tarts and chips at home.
-There are also vultures coming. They are the worst of the worst, ready to swindle, take advantage of a bad situation, and kick you when you’re down. Some people are truly the worst. Be on the lookout. But don’t let their sleazy selves harden your heart. Most people are good, and kind and helpful.
-Is there anything hotter than Louisiana without power? If there is, you won’t be able to recall it. Stay hydrated. Put bug spray everywhere but your mouth. Prioritize clean socks and underwear. Take breaks, lots and lots of breaks.
-Today will not last forever. Tomorrow might be just as difficult, but by then, you will have the knowledge that if you made it through one day, then you can make a plan to make it through another. Be gentle with yourself. This is hard stuff.
-You are loved. Truly. People do care. Help is on the way. (Yes, I know I’ve said it before—I’m saying it again). I’m so sorry. Be safe. Deep breaths. You’re my heroes. And I’m so sorry you’re in this mess. But you’re not alone. And one day, one day, friends, it won’t be this hard. Hold on. Stay safe. You are loved.”
Indeed. We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.