Sunday, February 28, 2010

Catastrophe and resilience

Yesterday an 8.8 earthquake struck the coast of Chile, and the consequences are still shaking the world. The day before that I received word that doctors had given up hope that my dear friend Anita could beat her cancer. Go home, they said; put your papers in order, call hospice, gather your family. Catastrophe on global and personal levels. I find myself among those reeling from the news.

This morning I have been reading Revelations 19 and 20, along with Eugene Peterson’s commentary, Reversed Thunder. The background is catastrophe, the judgments of Revelations 15-18. The topic is salvation. The images are a meal and a war. And, from Peterson’s perspective, the time is now, not some future scenario of the end of the world.

I think Peterson is right. God is now moving forward with his mission of salvation, both in the ordinary personal realm of life (the meal, with Anita), and in the cosmic fight against all sorts of evil (war, in Chile). I love the way the two images come together in the 23rd Psalm: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

I’m thinking this morning of the many meals we’ve shared with Anita and her family. Much of our friendship—talking together on subjects that matter, praying, laughing at our kids’ antics, reading poetry—has taken place around the dinner table.

For the last year and a half, I’ve engaged in warfare on Anita’s behalf. Hal and I have joined with Don, Anita’s husband, and many others to plead for her healing. She’s gone through many procedures and even experiments to try and beat this. How do we take this latest news? Don encourages us to continue our prayers for healing, and I do. I also cry out, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy. Have mercy. Have mercy.”

I’m thinking of my students—and friends—Dino and Luis, who live in Santiago. I pray for them and I wonder. Are they safe? Are they well? I imagine their reactions at 3:30 Saturday morning, and I pray their houses are still standing, their children comforted.

Luis is a poet, a pastor and a psychologist, a person who lives to comfort and strengthen his people. The word “resilience” comes to mind. Luis is passionate about this concept. As a pastor in Santiago’s main penitentiary, he has observed how when prisoners become Christian, they seem better able to “bounce” back in terms of facing their future with hope. Resilience. In fact, Luis is proposing to center his doctoral research on the intersection of spirituality and resilience, a topic that is now, more than ever, appropriate for Chile.

I’m thinking that it is in Christ alone that we are able to face catastrophe with resilience—catastrophe on the personal level, catastrophe that affects entire nations. I struggle to frame my response to Anita, to Luis and Dino and their country. And I continue to pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.”

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