By now the world knows that on Monday, just before 3 p.m. local time, a massive tornado touched down near Oklahoma City. We’ve witnessed how it shredded the nearby suburb of Moore like a city made of wooden Tinker Toys. But with rescue workers still sifting through twisted steel and bare trees stripped of leaves and bark, there is so much more we do not know.
We know the tornado brought winds up to 200 mph and a funnel cloud and debris field two miles wide. But we do not know the total devastation to homes, businesses and schools.
We know that many people have died, but we do not know how high the death toll will rise.
We know that many of the victims were children, but we do not know their names, ages or whether they liked toy cars or action heroes, soccer or ballet, dolls or stuffed animals. Those tender details will come.
Like many of you, I’ve watched hours of the live coverage broadcast from mountains of rubble and rippled asphalt parking lots. Stories are emerging of friends, neighbors and strangers saving lives. A witness spoke of one good Samaritan pulling a dead woman and her infant child from a collapsed convenience store.
Good Samaritan, indeed.
As the anecdotes roll in, I wonder why it sometimes takes such tragedy for our hearts to fully engage with one another. Does it seem we’re all a little kinder after school shootings, marathon bombings and natural disasters? Don’t we love our fellowmen on the good days, too?
What else do we know?
We’ve seen recovery footage featuring volunteers climbing up and around dangerous piles of rubble that appear as if they might collapse like a Jenga tower. Their bravery reminds us that God could do this work if he wanted to, but he expects us to be his hands.
We know he could pull people from trapped cars, put out fires or carry a stranger’s body from ruins to a resting place. No, he doesn’t need our help – he wants it.
Heartbreak of this EF-4 magnitude tornado teaches us that our Father in heaven is a God of perfect miracles, but often the day-to-day heavenly miracles come through imperfect, earthly hands.
We know that tragedies only teach us if we allow ourselves to learn from them. Perhaps the tragedies of the past few months have reminded us that the best way to honor those who’ve lost their lives is to be more kind, more patient and more loving.
The new angels with Oklahoma accents would want you to hold your wife a bit longer, to kiss your husband goodbye, to hug your kids until they squirm away and to call your mother just a little more often.
In coming days we will ask the wind in quiet whispers just how we can join the work. Specific opportunities will certainly arise to donate time, money and, for some, expertise. But there’s no need to wait for an invitation.
Because when you spend time on your knees on behalf of Oklahoma, you’re doing God’s work.
Because when you shed a tear for victims you’ve never met or weep openly for a mother who will never again tuck in her little one, you’re doing God’s work.
Perhaps we already know more than we realize about this devastating tornado. Recovery in all its forms is truly God’s work, and there’s plenty of it to do.
Let’s get started.