Cleanup After the Storm

Have you ever lived in a town that got hit by a tornado?  I will never forget April 21, 1996.  I was living in Van Buren, Arkansas, and while thunderstorms and severe weather were moving through, no one expected what was about to happen.  Shortly after 11pm a F3 tornado hit Van Buren (fortunately about 3 miles from where I was living).   Over 500 homes were destroyed and another 500 heavily damaged.

What I witnessed the next morning was worse than I ever imagined.  Homes were leveled.  Entire streets of homes were literally gone.  Miraculously, there were no fatalities; however, the emotional and financial damage was extensive.  The community basically came to a standstill as there was so much to rebuild and so many that had to start over – losing all they had.   Below is an aerial shot of one row of houses:

ADG Photo by Rick McFarland, April 23, 1996Van Buren 1
ADG Photo by Rick McFarland, April 23, 1996 Van Buren, AR

The tornado was on the ground for ten miles and had wind speeds of 200mph.  Imagine if you were in the path of that tornado how fast it would move through.  Devastating damage is done to a neighborhood – to a community – so fast – barely time to take cover.  In a matter of seconds people’s homes are taken from them and life changes in an instant.  Then the cleanup begins….and it is anything but fast.

The storm takes only a second, but the rebuilding takes time.

The same is true when we have to comeback from life altering decisions or been the victim of such a decision.  Hang with me here because this is not popular.  This is not what we want to hear.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.   Decisions are made so fast….but the fallout from those choices hangs around for some time. It may only take a second to swerve into the ditch, but much longer to get back on the road.

Divorce. Addiction. Financial disaster. Choices that ruin reputations and cost people jobs, relationships and so much more.  The decisions that lead to these things can come and go as fast as an F3 tornado, but picking up the pieces of your life afterwards just takes time. I wish it weren’t true. I wish there was a different way, but this is a principle that, if embraced, will actually bring calm after the storm:  the tearing down process can take place in a minute, but the rebuilding process takes time. Be patient.

Why?  Because after the mistakes, the admitting to it and the change of the behavior, most everyone wants to hurry up and move past this phase of their lives.  It just doesn’t happen that way.   In the Bible (2 Kings 5) there is a story about a great warrior named Namaan who had leprosy.  He was urged to go see this great man of God – Elisha – so he did.  He knocked on his door and here was the exchange (2 Kings 5:10-11):

 Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.

Why was he mad?  Because he wanted instant healing.  He wanted a hand waved, a quick prayer answered and his life to be fully back in order again. We all want that.  But it doesn’t happen that way.  It rarely does.

It’s normal.  No one wants to experience the pain.  The hurt.  The loneliness of where their own choices lead them.  It’s so easy to band-aid your life back to normal, until the band-aid doesn’t hold any longer.

It’s so common to see people rebound from failure by grabbing a hold of anything that brings them comfort and validates that they are “ok”.  Have you ever seen grown adults move from one relationship to the other?  They seem like they have found “the one”.  Pictures of “their love” all over social media.  Then “the one” just becomes “another one.”

The truth is…..the cleanup after the storm takes time. 

  • Time to learn lessons on what got you where you are so it isn’t repeated.
  • Time to heal and grow and find out the life you want to build from here forward.
  • Time to work on the relationships closest to you – starting with God.

While peace with God is instant, a total remodel of a life torn down by sin just takes some time.  So many don’t wait it out and just want everything to be better now.  Wash in the river 7 times? Phew.  Get a job that is beneath me?  Stay single for awhile? Start all over from scratch?   Yes – no magic wand here.  Rebuilding takes time…and hard work.  But one thing is sure: it is so much better than living in broken down places.

3 thoughts on “Cleanup After the Storm

  1. Hello Kyle,
    Thanks a lot for the follow on my blog. Apologies for the late reply. This is a beautiful, uplifting article and you’ve wonderfully prepared that analogy of a tornado and life gone astray.

    I had a minor suggestion if you don’t mind. Kindly add a like and a comment section to your about page. It is wonderfully written and deserves all the praise that viewers like me would want to give.

    Happy blogging. God bless. 🙂


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