Monday, January 10, 2005

Tsunami and me

I haven't written about the tsunami yet, 'cause I just don't know what to say. Or think. It's beyond comprehension. I remember how my gut felt like it was being wrenched from my body when I saw the images of the mothers wailing over the bodies of their dead children. I remember wanting to hold all of my children close when I heard the story about the mother who had to choose which child to hold onto when the wave came. (She chose the younger, more vulnerable one, but fortunately the other one survived too so she didn't have to live with the guilt all of her life.) I remember thinking God was evil and didn't deserve to be in my life any more. I remember trying to imagine standing on the beach, watching the huge wave come and swallow your whole village. I remember trying to visualize and comprehend what it must have felt like to walk among the ruins and see the broken houses, the broken playgrounds, and all those bodies of people who used to be your neighbours, your classmates, your children - all the people that filled your life before this moment.

Roger Kamenetz (Beliefnet) says it well: "I am trying to connect to this tragedy the best I can. The pictures help a little. I see dead children on the floor, a parent weeping. The little ones look like they are sleeping; it is unimaginable that they are dead. I see a parent holding his dead child. I feel in my body what it is like to hold... that weight. To feel the life gone, and the heaviness of a body that does not have life. It is different from holding a sleeping child, carrying a child to bed for instance. I can feel what this father feels in the photo, can reach in my imagination, and in my memory.But I can't multiply what I feel by 10,000 or 40,000, or even by ten. We know more than we can feel. And we respond as best we can, I think. This is our situation in a time of instant global communication."

What I like about Kamenetz piece is that he says we shouldn't focus on whether God was in the tsunami. The tsunami was. Period. We don't need to explain it. What we know for certain is that God is in the response. "And now another wave is spreading, and it is also vast, and it spreads through the hearts of those who let themselves feel it."

And now, as I prepare for what I'll see in Africa, I wonder if I can accept the questions there too. Can I accept that a loving God lets it happen without intervening? Can I "sit with the questions" and still find peace?

"The disaster is. It happened to a 'dear one,' someone's 'dear one,' many dear ones. I open my heart and feel it. The place it touches in me, touches God."

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