Note: This was supposed to be posted yesterday — but life took over, and it wasn’t finished. So here it is, a day late :-)
….I saw what it meant to fear God. For many people, April 27, 2011, will be the day that forever changed lives. For me, it will always be April 28 that I remember. The 27 was the day the destruction happened. The 28 is the day the destruction was revealed to it’s fullest extent.
On April 27, four years ago, the Lord in His sovereignty, set up the atmosphere to be perfect for a “Tornado Outbreak” across the deep south. In Alabama that meant 63 tornadoes on the ground, many simultaneously with others. For Alabama, that meant a loss of 252 lives.
And as the sun came up April 28, the extent of the damage was seen. The sky was perfectly, totally, deeply blue. A picnic going sky. As if it were apologizing for the damage caused. And it stayed like that all day long.
That day was the day when I came to a deeper knowledge of what it meant to fear God. Seeing the destruction allowed by our Heavenly Father, seeing the trees bowed down, eternally paying homage to our Lord who had caused the mighty wind, homes indiscriminately taken, blown around, seeing trees every which way on the ground, seeing the tangled mess of what had once been orderly strung power lines all over the place……the same God, the very same God, will one day judge me for my sins. This is what it means to truly fear the Lord. To love Him, because He is good and gracious, but also to fear Him, because He is powerful.
I didn’t take any pictures of the destruction around me. No one in our family did. It seemed almost as if we were prying into peoples homes as we traversed the road and saw people standing in the midst of what had been their homes. In the ruins of their lives. And now, when I see pictures, it seems almost surreal. As if it really wasn’t that bad. As if it was a thing that happened in my dreams.
I learned how selfish I was. At the time I was hunkered down in the storm shelter at my grandparents, straining to hear the sounds of the storm, I was praying for my family. Never once thinking of friends’ families. I was praying for the safety of my family. For the safety of my home. Because it was going over us. I didn’t realize how selfish I was until we were on the property of dear family friends, helping them to gather together the remnants of the life they had known. One of the daughters came up to me, and gave me a hug. Then she asked me an astounding question: “How is your home? Did you have any damage we can be helping you with?” As she is standing amidst the ruins of her home, viewing for the first time the destruction caused. As we are all working to selvage the life that they had known. Looking for her mother’s, now a newly made widows’, wedding ring. And I am asked if my family needs help. It was breathtaking to see the way the fellow believers started pouring in after lunch — from everywhere. Texas. Tennessee. Mississippi. Georgia. And several other states. All wanting to help. To comfort. To encourage.
I will never forget the way our “Community” of believers drew together, and helped through the rebuilding process. It was precious to see. To experience. To be a part of.
I thought I would never forget what happened. But as time slips on, I have forgotten. Not the impact that the storm made, but the little details. The little things that left us all amazed at the power of our Lord. I wrote this in my journal about a week after the tornado, and I have been blessed that I did, for it will help me to never forget the mighty works that the Lord has done:
“It happened Wednesday. Over a week ago. Yet still I shudder with remembrance. The predictions, the anxiousness, the waiting. A vague thought, always banished, yet still there — the thought of what if….
Grandma wanting us to share her safe room. Watching this monstrous whirlwind go through downtown Birmingham, over a mile and a half wide, on her television. Knowing it was headed for us. Heading downstairs, to the basement. Hearing the weatherman declare, ‘The tornado has broken up.’ Loosing satellite, looking outside. Seeing white things — debris — falling from the sky. Seeing the fog — the updraft — rolling in from the lake. Seeing the lightening. Hearing Daddy say ‘Head to the safe room.’ The prayers uttered. The pleas. ‘Lord, just protect us!’ Begging God. The quiet. The fear as Daddy turned the doorknob. What if the house was gone? The relief and thankfulness at seeing the house intact. A few trees down. No cell service, internet service, power lines down. That was all.
Knowing people were mourning for loved ones. Families were separated. Seeing millions of homes on television gone. Praying that night as we lay down in bed for these families. That the Lord would comfort them. Give them peace. Never dreaming that we knew these families.
The sun rising the next day, showing the destruction caused by the giant, massive cloud. Heading for Shoal Creek, to make sure that everyone was okay. Never dreaming what lay ahead. The phone call. The tears in Mama and Daddy’s eyes as they told us what happened. The tornado had touched down, reaking havoc. The prayers of thanks of we heard that the B’s and C’s were okay…..the C’s house was gone, but they were alive. Then came the tears, the questions as we were told the L’s house collapsed on them. They were trapped for three hours….Mr. L. was dead…..he jumped on his family, giving his life to save theirs as the ceiling collapsed. How his eldest son heard his last words. “Lord, save my family….”
The lessons learned. The realization that it takes only thirty seconds to have everything taken away. I need to make every ounce of time count. Every year….every month….every week….every day….every hour….every minute….every second. Because in thirty seconds, I may not have the chance. The chance to give a hug….listen to a dream….read a book to siblings. The chance to play a game….to comfort….to encourage. The chance to forgive….to make up….to ask forgiveness….to lend a hand. No matter how busy I am, I should never be too busy. Only thirty seconds, and my chance is gone. That time is too valuable to wast in arguing. Too precious to waste by fretting over inconveniences. Too costly to be annoyed. No matter how busy I am, I should always stop and listen. Stop and laugh. I need to make my chance last. I need to make it meaningful.”
You can read more about the tornadoes, and our friends’ experiences by reading:
I am a 23 year old young lady who is redeemed and saved from my sin only by the grace of God. A bibliophile at heart with a love of history who desires to see the Word of God practically applied to all aspects of our daily lives -- in our homes, in the grocery store, in the political realm. I strive to put my jumbled, chaotic thoughts down onto paper -- reducing them into black and white rows, letters, sentences. Into some semblance of sanity. And I share them here with all of you, where I can challenge you, make you think, and cause you to ask questions. I am the oldest of eleven children living the country life in the deep south.