Posted by: JennyRain | March 3, 2007

Part 2: The Divine Setup: Engaged by Grace

The youngest daughter was celebrating her birthday on the first day we arrived. She proudly showed me her new bedroom. It was powder-blue with patches of pepto-bismol pink. The sun shone brightly into the windows and bathed her face as she somersaulted in ecstatic wonder on her slate-gray carpeting. I pictured her sleeping on that floor with only a blanket and a pillow and wondered how long she would enjoy the barren room.

Perhaps I was filtering her reality through my own dependence on “stuff.”

I longed for a childlike innocence on my views of the world. I wondered how this event has and will continue to shape her? Would she define herself by Katrina? Is she traumatized in any way by the storm with unseen scars that will not grow to the surface of her identity until years have passed? How will this storm continue to define the family’s identity, their hopes, their dreams? How has the failure of the federal system been internally resolved in their emotions, psyche, and theology, or has it? Can a person wake up each morning knowing that the government designed to help protect them has left them instead bereft of shelter, basic provisions, and overall dignity. How can anyone experience that reality and still retain a workable level of trust for the “system”?

I grappled with the failure of the system and its impact on this family all morning. I stepped into the feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness they were undoubtedly feeling. The more I emotionally participated in the family’s experience, the more I was amazed at their resilience and fortitude in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

I did not even attempt to find theological rationalizations because there weren’t any.

God did not “make” this family lose everything, nor did they “deserve” to be left bereft because God needed to work out “a lack of character” in them. Additionally, this tragedy was not designed to “grow the Imago Dei” in them and it was not sent “because everything happens for a reason.” It was simply life happening and though God’s Fingerprints of Grace most definitely were left touching each member of the family to reassure them that they were not forgotten and to nurture them with His love, I remained actively cognizant of the fact that what they were going through was a horrible experience.

Previous mission experiences had, at the very least, taught me the futility of over-romanticizing poverty and destitution. Poverty kills. It is evil, it is not a part of the original created order, and when we as a community of faith choose to remain in an overly-romanticized-Christianity of poverty’s impact (i.e., “they are so poor, but look, they seem to be so happy!”) we remain numb to its effect and stand resolutely in a state of inactivity. I decisively chose to remain in a state of powerlessness so that my mind and heart would stay engaged and receptive to Divine grace as God chose to manifest Himself through the week’s events. I found little comfort in remaining in my cognitions and less of such in my emotions, so I prayed for the grace to transcend both as I painted, caulked, and waited.

Ethically, there were no answers for this family’s predicament. The system had failed. Psychologically, the family had experienced something beyond human capacity to process. There were undoubtedly scars, many of which would need professional help to resolve. Ecclesiastically, the church had some wonderful opportunities through this catastrophe to minister and pick up where the system had failed should we choose to dirty our fingers and offer our hearts and lives. Theologically, the family had undoubtedly been left with many questions about the character and identity of God and the meaning of life.

Personally, I was struggling, because this was no longer only their experience, it had become mine as well.

God had chosen to open a window of divine grace. I had been engaged by this wave of Grace and was now given a chance to co-create with God in rebuilding and repairing of the walls and structures in this family’s life. I had a role in their life – ethically, psychologically, ecclesiastically, and theologically – and my mouth, hands, heart, and body were all being called upon to respond. “Therefore, I urge you brethren [and sisteren], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” (Rom 12:1 NASB, brackets mine). Of all that I came to offer this family, could I offer myself as a vehicle for God’s divine grace to work through?

I had a choice.

For more information on how to participate in Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts, please see:

All writings copyrighted by author 3.5.2007 ©


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