The devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael just a few weeks ago was shocking. It is still difficult to grasp the scope of the devastation and the anguish of the many who lost everything of material value.
We are just coming to grips with the shock of the number of lives lost and the cost of property destruction. Video footage evokes a welling up of sorrow for those afflicted.
Empathy is essential, but willingness to draw on our resources to aid those in distress is the measure of our true compassion. Now is the time to combine prayer and action.
Storms such as Michael reveal our powerlessness over unleashed forces of nature. We have developed far more sophisticated assessment and predictive technologies than prior generations could have imagined.
Meteorologically, Michael "blew up" quickly in a most unpredictable and ungovernable manner. In the face of the storm, most evacuated to physical safety. Some, however, decided to ride out the storm.
There are consequences in human lives from these personal decisions. One might ask if many chose wisely.
Choosing "wisely" evokes images of practical decisions: avoiding physical risk, making the best investment choice, purchasing the most reliable cars and appliances, assessing potential outcomes, evaluating evidence. All these determinations are rooted in and revolve around our preoccupation with "today" and with a reasonably short timeline into "tomorrow." We really need to make wise decisions.
We act, often, as if the material and immediate world is all that there is. Intuitively, that perspective is the most superficially reasonable, so it appeals to us most comfortably.
But, for people of faith, there is another dimension - the presence of God. If there is a God who is eternal and ultimately in control, then this reality changes the value of the choices we might make. In fact, it changes what constitutes the range of choices with which we must be concerned.
Author Anne Lamott observed that, "If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little."
By the way, Lamott offers a great template for this exercise in her book "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers."
Dr. Jim Denison, a pastor, theologian, and blogger, offers this perspective: "When we face circumstances beyond our control, we have three options: We can continue to fight as though we are in control, give up and accept what comes, or work alongside the One who is in control. Only one brings true peace."
As a Christian, I am reminded that Jesus Christ - whom I follow - said this, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
We need to be choosing wisely. May you have true peace.
Joe Crowley is director of adult discipleship at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. firstname.lastname@example.org