Expect the Unexpected
They knew it was coming. They had been told, but what the residents of Houston, Texas and the surrounding areas did not expect, was a hurricane that brought devastation in its wake. We have often heard the expression “expect the unexpected” and chuckle over it.
However, there was no time to laugh, when a tropical storm grew into a hurricane called Harvey, towards the end of August 2017 around Texas, USA. People were advised to evacuate and escape to higher ground, but some brave souls actually decided to ride out the storm, and were reeling from its impact.
This crippling storm displaced people, and destroyed homes. Pictures of flooded neighborhoods showed houses that looked like floating islands surrounded by rising water. Food and drinking water were suddenly scarce. As the poet Coleridge said in his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” there was “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
In times of tragedy, people bond, and reach out a helping hand irrespective of class, race, color and creed. The first responders, volunteers, and emergency crews helped hundreds of families deal with the torrential rain and consequent flooding. Roads became waterways with boats navigating their way to rescue those in distress.
Many stories of heroism are now springing up like mushrooms. A Houston couple actually canceled their wedding to help Harvey survivors where the roads had turned into rivers.
Then there are the extraordinary images like the Houston musician who appeared on You Tube still playing the piano in his flooded home. How about the singer who sang in a crowded shelter to keep up the morale of the stranded victims, or the human chains that were formed to rescue the elderly and others coping with this flooding catastrophe! People were so united in the face of unexpected tragedy.
As I sit with the expression “expect the unexpected” I immediately think of Jesus, who came into the Jewish world as the suffering servant, not the Messiah they were anticipating. This carpenter from small town Nazareth was a far cry from the grandiose vision the Jewish people had of a Messiah, who was going to deliver them from Roman oppression.
Jesus upset the status quo by healing on a Sunday, mingling with sinners, and challenging the Jewish authority of his day. He came to serve, rather than be served. In Luke’s Gospel 4:16-30 Jesus cited two Old Testament stories that clearly demonstrate how God works.
During a time of drought, the prophet Elijah was sent to a foreigner, a widow from Sidon, not an Israelite. Then there is Elisha who cleansed from leprosy Naaman the Syrian, again not an Israelite.
Was God immediately present to the victims of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath? Yes, in many ways already stated. An unexpected example was watching Fr. David Bergnon from the Companions of the Cross, kayaking up and down water logged streets reassuring all with the statement “God is still with us.”
Fr. Mark Goring CC a fellow priest quoted the prophet Micah to those who were listening. “though I have fallen, I will arise; though I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light.” (Micah 7:8). The media who interviewed some displaced souls who had experienced hurricane Katrina and now Harvey were amazed at their positive response.
Their faith in a loving, merciful God was evident, for Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare not for woe.” In an unexpected time, those affected believed in a God who would deliver them from their misery. The power of evangelizing in trying moments is powerful, for one has to Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!