It’s the father I think of most, his picture I still see in my head. Sitting on that faded lawn chair in the midst of all that rubble, head buried in two shaking, dirt-stained hands. Sobbing. Waiting for his young son to answer.
He’d been there for hours, combing through what the tornado had left behind. Shouting his son’s name, calling him home. What remained of the elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma, was little more than piles of twisted wood and steel. Still, he believed his son would be found. Other children had been pulled from the wreckage, why not his?
But as the hours drew on and the shouts dwindled, what hope he had began to fade. His son was still somewhere in there. His boy. That thought—the sheer, horrible knowing—was enough to hollow out what was left of his heart. As I sat there in the comfort of my living room, surrounded not only by a whole house but a whole family as well, I watched the tearful reporter say this man would not leave until his son was found. Alive or dead.
We cannot escape these stories. We hear them on the news and read them in the paper. We see accounts of the dead and the survivors online. The news is everywhere now, as close as the phone in your pocket. Maybe that’s why I’m still thinking of that father some three days later. Or maybe it’s simply because I have a son as well.
He’s gone now, I suppose. The last I heard was that everyone had been found and all the bodies recovered. Twenty-four people died in Moore, ten of them children. I suppose his son was among them.
But I still see that father there, sobbing in that chair.
Pray for them. That’s what I’ve heard, and from everywhere. It’s what the governor of Oklahoma said—“We need prayers.” They do. We all do. And in the days and weeks to come, what will happen in Moore is what happens so often in this country in times of need and catastrophe. Friends and strangers will open their hearts and their pocketbooks. Streets will flood with volunteers. The rebuilding will begin.
Ask that broken father, he’ll probably agree with all of that. Then he’ll probably say it’s much easier to rebuild a town than to rebuild a life.
Pray for Oklahoma. I’ve said those words myself. I’ve read the thoughts of many with regards to what that tornado meant and where God was and why He allowed it. Me, I’ve written nothing. A part of me feels like no one else should have, either. We don’t know where God was. We don’t know what He was thinking. And honestly? If that were me sitting in a lawn chair, screaming for my son? If all those pontificators would have come to me and said it was all for some greater purpose? That God won’t give me more than I can handle? I would’ve strangled each and every one of them.
I saw this Facebook comment in a recent article: “If prayer works, there wouldn’t be a disaster in the first place. So please keep your religion to yourself.”
Not true, of course. Prayer is a mystery designed to change us more than our circumstances, and we accomplish nothing by denying that God is sovereign over all. But I understood the sentiment. A part of me was even tempted to share it. But keeping my religion to myself? No.
We don’t need less of God now. Now, we need Him more.
I wouldn’t have told any of this to that father. I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it myself. Not then. What I would have done was just sit. I would have called out his son’s name and I would have wept along with him, because we need to weep with those who weep. That requires no answers and no empty platitudes, only a heart willing to be broken so that on one far day it may be filled once more with hope.