In the days after a fire destroyed a six-bay garage at the ARC Retreat Center as well as three cars, two years’ supply of firewood, and all my belongings, I was numb; I wandered around wearing other people’s clothes trying to remember who I was and what I believed. Had God abandoned me? The ring of towering Norwegian pines surrounding the garage had been scorched; I put my hands in their blackened, seeping wounds. For the first time I understood the significance of Jesus’ wounds after the crucifixion. God is with us; God hurts with us, and God is far bigger than our hurt.
When I think back on the crises and tragedies of my life—that fire, the death of my nephew, my father’s two kidney transplants, and Emily’s two bouts with cancer—I’m struck by how formative and transformative they are. The times when I’m most broken by grief are also the times when God reaches into my heart and profoundly reshapes it. I’m grateful for who I’ve become as a result. It’s strange; I wouldn’t wish these hardships on anyone, and yet the greatest gifts of my life have emerged from them.
Crises make us vulnerable, and when we’re vulnerable God is better able to work in us. In the midst of hardship, this isn’t always comforting. The devastation I felt as I touched those sappy, scorched wounds in the trees seemed to double when I sensed God crying with me. But afterward I took in the significance. Afterward we can recognize that creative force working on a scale and in a dimension we can’t glimpse otherwise. Something new has emerged. We’re forever changed.
I think about this as we walk into the mounting ramifications of climate change. We will feel vulnerable. We will recognize our weaknesses. We will feel guilty. We will grieve the loss of species and stable weather. But these are opportunities to lean into God, to invite God’s bigger, transforming presence into our hearts and communities. A mighty shift is possible, if only we’re willing.
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew