One tornado, two stories

I keep hearing two stories in the aftermath of last week’s tornadoes in Oklahoma. Two drastically different stories, and yet both of them are absolutely true. The contrast and veracity of these twin tales highlight the turmoil of Christian existence.

The first story is about what the tornadoes did.

The second story is about what God is doing.

I hear the first story primarily from news outlets. I’ve seen a lot of footage of crumpled cars, flattened homes, and apocalyptic wastelands. I’ve seen victims covered in rubble, faces covered in blood, and cities covered in devastation. I’ve seen dark clouds of destruction, menacing tornadoes, and absolute terror. The first story shouts out one overriding truth: this world is broken, and this world wants to destroy us.

I hear the second story primarily from my friends in Oklahoma, many of whom are pastors. I’ve heard of comfort in the midst of tragedy. I’ve heard of food given to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and warmth to the shivering. I’ve heard of homes opened to strangers, families opened to outsiders, and arms linked together to shoulder unbearable burdens. I’ve heard of churches stepping up, going out, and showing and sharing the love of Jesus. I’ve heard of lives transformed, families renewed, and communities, somehow, on the mend. The second story resounds with one overriding truth: our God restores all that is broken, and He wants to rescue us.

What I, and so many like me, find particularly troubling is that both stories are true. It’d be far more comforting if only the second were true–if God were rescuing us, even if we never needed rescuing. It would at least be simpler if only the first were true–if the world was trying to destroy us, but God wasn’t concerned enough to intervene.

But we live in the tension of two true stories. One, a tale of all that is wrong with this world, the second a tale of all that is right. The trouble is, the first story roars with a bellowing shout, while the second often seems no more than an inaudible whisper.

But decibles alone don’t accurately measure power. A shout may be more audible, but in this case, a whisper is better suited to change the world. Or, to put it another way, the stories of twisters and tornadoes may be true, but the story of God and his kingdom is even more true.

The truth of the first story compels us to grieve, act, and pray.

The truth of the second story compels us to hope.

I keep hearing two stories. The first story is one of tornadoes–both in Oklahoma and in my own life. The second story is one of what God is doing, both in Oklahoma and in my own life.

The question isn’t which story is true–because they both are.

The question is, which story will define who I am?

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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One Response to One tornado, two stories

  1. alnjulie2009 says:

    Excellent Essay Pastor Tim!! I see both stories in my everyday story of rehabvilitation and healing!! And finding purpose in a genuinely new life! Yours, Alan Demers

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