Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mar. 11, 2011

This is a repost of a Facebook note that I wrote on Mar. 12, 2011, the day after the Sendai Earthquake:

When things are going well in my life, I have a tendency to attribute the peace and success to my own abilities; I think of it as something that I've somehow merited, something that I deserve.  I occasionally give lip-service to God, but fail to acknowledge him in my heart. 

The strange thing is, I don't only do this with my career and my talents; I even do it with things like the weather, or other features of my environment.  If it's sunny, well--it must be sunny because I really wanted it to be that way.  This was certainly how I felt about the lack of major earthquakes during my time in Japan.  It looks completely irrational when it is written down, but at least a part of me genuinely believed that there hadn't been a devastating earthquake because I really didn't want there to be one.  This was reinforced every time I would feel a small earthquake.  I'd enjoy the break in my routine for a few seconds and then think "okay earth, you can stop shaking now.  That's enough."  And, the earthquake would always subside, reinforcing my twisted logic.  I don't think I ever would have admitted to thinking in this way, but this faulty reasoning was exposed to me in a big way yesterday afternoon.

It was just after 2:40 P.M.  My 6th period Junior American Lit. class had dismissed minutes before and the peaceful stillness of my 7th period prep-time had begun.  I was all alone in my room, sitting at my desk, when I noticed the blinds on the window swaying.  Since we'd had a small earthquake only a few days earlier, I recognized this symptom immediately and went through my familiar process of thinking "Ah, yes, the earthquake!  One of Japan's little quirks.  I shall enjoy this novelty for approximately 10 seconds and then it will stop."

But it didn't stop.  In fact, it got worse.  And when the room started to shake and sway, it occurred to me that this quake might be out of my hands; that I could not will this earthquake to stop any more than I could will the sun to rise in the evening or set in the morning.  As I sat huddled beneath my desk, the quake seemed to get progressively worse--more violent.  It lasted for several minutes.  Every second that I was under the desk, I couldn't help but feel the terror of the realization that this event really was beyond my control.  Japan was having a big earthquake, and who knew what the damage would be, and I could do nothing to make it stop.  I felt instantly small and powerless.

God speaks to the small and powerless.  Those caught up with their own pursuit of power, those who believe they control all things, those who think they know best manage to tune out God's voice, but the small and powerless chase that voice, call after it, cling to it for all they are worth.  So that's precisely what I did.  I clung to God.  My weekend was long, exhausting, uncomfortable, and chock-full of responsibility that I frankly didn't want to take, decisions that I didn't want to make. I woke up terrified several times during the night because of tremors, and while I was asleep, had nightmares about trying to drive away from crashing waves and exploding nuclear reactors.  Even tonight as I write this, my stomach is a nervous bundle of knots.  Yet aside from the physical discomfort and surface-level feelings of fear, I feel a peace that runs much deeper. 

God is in control.  I was in Japan during one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history and I emerged with only minor, stress-related physical discomfort.  So many lost their homes, their lives, their livelihood... it easily could have been me, as a small missionary retreat near Sendai is one of my favorite vacation spots and I've spent hours walking along beaches that are now ravaged and flooded.  God is in control.  He kept me safe.  He kept my friends and colleagues safe.  He kept my students safe. 

God is in control.  He is watching over Japan and calling out to a nation that doesn't know him.  This is a time when Japan, weakened by crisis and being offered support by so many other countries, feels small and powerless.  I pray that the people of this country can listen, hear the voice of God calling, chase the voice, call after it and then cling onto it for all they are worth.  May all who live here be able to proclaim that God is in control.

Please remember Japan in your prayers.

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