"Years ago I stood on a creekside bank in the middle of the night. The sirens had awakened us after a fitful sleep during a monstrous thunderstorm, with pounding rain and hail. Usually, such signals meant a tornado was nearby...but not this night. We could hear an unfamiliar roar from the creek just below our house. And as we quickly dressed and ran outside, there were already firetrucks with searchlights on the wrirling waters which were almost reaching the banks where we stood. Never had they been that high before. But little did we realize that this was not all rain...the upriver dam had burst! Water from the lake was cascading down the creekbed! Houses were being swept away, with terrified people clinging to rooftops and tree limbs. I watched helplessly with hundreds of others as friends we knew lost their lives. It was a horrible experience I will never forget.
In Alaska, we have a tsunami warning center which monitors earthquakes worldwide to see if they might generate one of those devastating undersea waves which travel at incredible speed to hit shorlines like some monster shark with his mouth wide open. Every year I go down to a little town called Seward, which is situated in a beautiful bay and sourrounded by glaciers and tall mountains. Idyllic. Yet when the 1967 earthquake struck Alaska, a tsunami came rushing up the inlet like a freight train and literally swallowed ships, oil tanks, and railroad cars--many of which are yet to be found. They simply vanished, with great loss of life included.
The unexpected tragedies of life sometimes hit us with the force of a tsunami. Suddenly, we find all our priorities and plans are swept away and the life as we once knew it is like a picture which has been turned around to face the wall. Yet the devastation inside us can be far greater than what our eyes see. It can come in many ways--the loved one you trusted was not as committed as they vowed to be, and left you for another. A strong body is hit with a potentially terminal disease-- perhaps a loved one or perhaps even your own. A friend turns out to be an enemy. Someone you loved so much has passed away. You were promised things that were never delivered; you are sad and heartbroken...life is pain! I have a dear friend who lost her daughter in the Bali bombing; I have another who has just learned she has terminal cancer. Just yesterday I prayed with a man who has been paralyzed for over ten years. Life truly can be painful at times.
Having lived my promised 70 years, I can assure each of you that at one time or another a tsunami will hit your shore and you will experience total helplessness and bewilderment. Why do I know that? Because I've been through those tsunamis...not once, but many, many times. And even as I sit here writing this, I know another is on the way..because that is the way life is. I do not live in dread of it, but neither do I live with denial that it will never happen, for I have learned that such things are common to all of us throughout all our years.
So how do we deal with these "tsunamis" that come? One, we must realize that we cannot stop them. The seashore itself knows this truth: gentle waves are nice in the soft sands, but eventually greater waves will stir up the sea and pound the rocks higher up again and again. They are too powerful and are generated by the unpredictable. How the scientists wish they could stop one! But who can match the power of a wave coming in at hundreds of miles an hour, stretching from continent to continent? And who of us can do anything about death and dying outside of the grace of God through our prayers? Sin and death came with Adam..our only victory over these relentless assaults is to live spiritually in a place where they cannot destroy us.
There are signs in areas of Seward that warn us to seek higher ground immediately if a tsunami warning is given. But even if that were impossible for us to do physically, we can live in a higher place spiritually. There, nothing can touch or harm us. We have established a faith and trust in our Heavenly Father that cannot be shaken or destroyed. Blind faith? No. For true faith sees afar off and knows God has things in control.
And then, we must not be afraid to rebuild again.
Every child knows that the sandcastles they build along the shore will disappear when the tide comes in. But that does not stop their building another one the next day.
There are still piers standing in the water in Seward that do not hold docks anymore. But the people there moved away the rubble and chose to re-create even better ones. Slowly, the hope for tomorrow overcame the sadness of yesterday. They did not forget-- they just took what happened to them as a chance to stand in the face of devastation and despair and show the world how to overcome.
And no tsunami will ever destroy that kind of coastline...
MARY E. ADAMS