As tornado sirens blared in our community this morning, our family hunkered down in a shelter hallway at Zach's grade school. It was Field Day and Bryan, Luke and I had come over to take in the entertainment.
We got a little more than we bargained for, but there was nowhere else I'd rather have been. A really devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO over the weekend, so everyone's weather sensitivities are hightened right now.
As I watch TV footage of the devastation from the Joplin tornado, I'm reminded also of my sexual abuse recovery groups and the men and women everywhere whose lives are in shambles. My sexual abuse recovery groups are never far from my mind during tornado season. You see, we met on Thursday nights during our very first semester 3 years ago, and just about every Thursday night there were tornado watches, warnings and sirens blaring. We met several times in a lower room in our church while seeking shelter.
The name of our study? Shelter From the Storm. How's that for poetic? It was never lost on us.
It may seem morbid, but I snapped this picture today. (Those are my boys in the left foreground.)
As I look at this picture of the kids seeking shelter today, so many thoughts run through my mind. My body aches just thinking about the position they sat in. I sat like that for about 5 seconds before my legs were in agony - the children were like that for twenty minutes. The majority of the children were perfectly calm, but I suspect that is only because they don't know enough yet to really understand how powerful and destructive tornadoes are. On the outside, every adult appeared to be holding it together; but I noticed some shaking hands, teary eyes and worried whispers. It was hot and uncomfortable in the hallway. Adults passed out file folders to use to fan the masses of children, but it was still very stuffy. Kids were hungry, and there was no food available. Some needed to use the restroom. It was difficult to remain quiet for the duration.
The fear, discomfort and difficulty faced in this situation is comparable to that faced by a survivor of sexual abuse. The position an abused child is placed in is unbearably painful. Rarely does a child directly report abuse, but if you look closely there are often signs. Many adult survivors look like they have it all together, only to be dying inside - many destroying themselves with their self-destructive choices and behaviors. All too often, adults notice little things that are just "off" about a child or family, but do little more than fan a child with small doses of care while leaving the child in a crushing environment. The abused child is starved of love, appropriate affection, and protection. The abused child's needs are not met. The abused child is not heard, and grows into an adult who cannot begin to heal until they share their painful secret.
There is no doubt in my mind that prayers were said in that hallway today. There were prayers said throughout the city, I'm sure. And just like there were people praying through the storm today, there are people scattered throughout every survivor's life who pray for them. I believe God honors prayer. And He uses our pain for good, and gives purpose even to the garbage of our lives. He rescues. He restores.
We can hunker down in the sturdiest storm shelter known to man, but God is our one true shelter.
"You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat." Isaiah 25:4
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." Genesis 50:20
"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day." Psalm 32:3
"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3
"He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along." Psalm 40:2
I praise God for the tremendous recovery in my life...and for each recovery story I've heard or have been privileged to be a part of. I love that He is an ever-present shelter and source of comfort, healing, peace and joy.