From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down. That was in Cheyenne, WY. It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning. And now…I’ve been in more than I can count. It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west.
In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama. The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions. At first, very little concern over the weather. Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early. While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma. And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us.
It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”). I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit. I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers. Why? Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line? The response to those who were in need. Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods. Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama. Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families.
Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down? In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you.
For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to. In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people. While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways. For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster.
God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies. When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have. This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.
In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours. However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.
The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating. Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses. The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster. But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy.
I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm.