“God’s grace renews our soul, purifies our conscience, enlightens our mind, strengthens in us the faith, directs our will to goodness, warms our heart with genuine love, elevates our thoughts, and revives our whole nature.” Orthodox Bishop Alexander Mileant
It seems unreal that more than two weeks have passed since the effects of Hurricane Sandy were felt along the East Coast of New Jersey and beyond. The storm made landfall on a Monday and life on the barrier islands here will never be the same.
Our home is in Ortley Beach, designated by officials as “ground zero.” The extent of the damage in this small community, among others, is mind numbing. I only know our house is still standing because our tenant made the self-sacrificing decision to remain through the storm to assist those older residents who didn’t want to leave their homes. From the second floor she could see that the dark churning waters of the ocean had swept through the first floor, blowing out windows, and propelled by the wind, tearing off siding, our front porch and the new roof that had just been finished days before.
When she called me on Tuesday morning to say she and her little pug had made it through the night, my heart nearly pounded out of my chest at the prospect of what could have happened, but, thank God, didn’t.
We are not yet sure of the extent of the structural damage, but, unlike many other homes, it seems to be in one piece on its foundation. Those that held a coveted place along the ocean front have disappeared, been moved to a new location by furious ocean waves or simply smashed into pieces. This destruction was repeated all along the barrier islands and my heart breaks for my neighbors.
Homes were not the only things lost; dreams, times shared with loved ones, a life-time of meaningful possessions, security for the future and the sense of accomplishment and pride that owning a home or a business provides were washed away or pummeled into the broken pieces of lives in a matter of moments.
For those of us who have not been allowed to return to our homes, seeing the destruction only in newscasts or on the Internet, there is still a sense that this is all a nightmare, and maybe we will eventually wake up and things will be as they were.
Still, we wait anxiously to be able to return and gather together something of what might be left, or assess whether there is an opportunity to repair or rebuild. The waiting, and worrying, gnaws away at our hearts and minds, making it difficult to carry on with our daily lives. But there is work to do even now.
Phone calls need to be made, insurance claims filed, applications for assistance completed, making inventory lists of property and possessions, checking on loved ones and reaching out to those who are also in need, many of whom have lost everything.
“Doing something” also gives us a sense of having some control over our lives and moves us toward making plans for the future.
I imagine this was the experience of the disciples of Jesus upon his death. The storm of his loss ripped through their lives and left them feeling helpless and frightened, immobile, in a place of safety. The person they had invested everything in, left their families for, based their futures on, was gone. What now?
But Jesus came to them in their darkness, as he comes to us, and empowered them with God’s gift of the Holy Spirit so they could “do something,” so they could move forward and carry out plans for the future.
What rose out of the dark, churning waters of Christ’s suffering and death, and ultimate Resurrection, was the Church and a faith in Jesus Christ that continues to transform the world.
May the experience of the disciples bring us comfort, and may we be reminded that in all the storms of our lives, God’s grace has the extraordinary power of renewal.
Mary Morrell serves as managing editor of The Monitor.[[In-content Ad]]