Thursday, March 17, 2011

Powerless and prayerful

Stories are all around us, daily calling out for attention, some louder and more immediate than others. The stories coming from Japan are particularly haunting to me, as they are to hoards of others. I imagine many are like me, daily reading or watching the news for updates, each time experiencing pangs of compassion and dismay, followed by paralysis. Were the events unfolding in Japan to have been a movie, and not reality, as I watched I would be thinking, "This plot is over-the-top freaky. There are too many things going on here to be believable!" And in reality, it feels unbelievable. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by hundreds of powerful aftershocks, followed by a devastating tsunami, followed by thousands and thousands of deaths and missing persons, followed by explosions at a nuclear plant and leakage of radiation, followed by food and gasoline shortages and scarcity of resources - and now, followed by snow.

I felt like shaking my fist at nature today in angry protest when I saw the headlines, saw the people already severely traumatized and afflicted, standing outside, now hungry and cold in the snow. I scanned the paper in growing disbelief. This can't be happening... but it is. And it drove me once more to prayer, though I confess, it's hard to know what to pray sometimes. My simplest prayer is, God, be near. Show mercy and compassion. Bring comfort and provision. Show us who You are. It may feel so inadequate, as I feel so inadequate, but I have faith that God is not inadequate. He will not be swallowed up by the enormity of need.

Still, I don't know about anyone else, but the goings on of my life this week feel so trivial. I struggle with guilt, that I have the luxury of going on with my life as usual. That I can still make plans for the future and take outings and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, while all of Japan reels in shock. I wrestle with the unfairness of it all, knowing that life is not fair, but feeling that answer is much too dismissive. In a worldly sense, I feel a bit of survivor's guilt. Why them and not me?

Of course, I also feel the relief of it not being me, the deep down hope that it won't ever be, the unsettling reminder that one day it could be, that regardless, none of us really escape unaffected by what is happening in Japan. There are worldwide repercussions. Again, my intention is not to be negative or discouraging, and certainly not to engender fear, but to be honest about my response to the events in our world and my questions about how to face them squarely and respond faithfully to them. It sounds cliche, but there really are no easy answers.

On some level, having experienced the shock and pain of losing a loved one and knowing how strange it is to watch the world go on as usual around me while I am reeling and knowing that my life will never be the same again, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the events in Japan. It is hard not to think about the suffering and all the lives forever changed. It is hard not to feel that, even from a distance, I am somehow rubbing my relative safety and happiness in their wounds. I confess I don't know what to do about that. The only answer I return to, quite honestly, is prayer. Perhaps anything that drives me continually to God in prayer, recognizing my ultimate powerlessness, need not be a negative thing.

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