Tuesday, September 02, 2008

chariots

This may be my last Monday morning at Starbucks for awhile. Howard and Starbucks haven’t yet come through with their promise of at least limited free internet and my 3 year pursuit of higher learning begins tomorrow morning, much of which takes place in an online environment. Therefore I will have to find both decent coffee and free wifi elsewhere. But that is the subject of another day. Today I’m thinking about chariots and hurricanes. I know that may seem an odd combination, but in my life they have come together once again. I’ll attempt to make it a bit more clear, in case you’re missing the metaphors.
This morning, as I am writing this, another hurricane is coming ashore in New Orleans. My wife and I have spent two different weeks there after the last round in a limited attempt to help them rebuild their lives. It is still fresh like yesterday, walking through neighborhoods that will never be neighborhoods again and playgrounds where no one will be playing again. We worked alongside proud and resilient people who were trying to salvage what they could from the slimy muck that had overwhelmed their middle class existence. There were single moms who were trying to offer comfort to younger kids and there were retired couples trying to reclaim the remnants of their younger years. That was the first time that I began to understand clearly about where the chariots fit in.
In the Book of Books, there is an admonition of sorts that says “some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God”. It was always kind of a random statement for me. I understood that somewhere in time it meant something to someone, but I generally had no clue. Two trips to New Orleans, sharing lives and hearing stories about loss and faith and determination began to clarify it for me. The chariots had failed them, chariots being a metaphor for all of the man made security that we have attempted to surround ourselves with that should prevent bad things from happening to good people. I stood at the foot of the levees in the 9th ward where the chariots failed and the people died and others wished that they had because everything that had been set in place for their well being had washed away in the flood. In many cases people were left behind because, literally, there were not even enough chariots to carry them from harms way. The chariots that had been created to support and provide for them in the aftermath have failed miserably.
The people that I was privileged to work beside after the storm, who still had hope, all had one thing in common. They knew the difference between faith and chariot. The chariots had been nice and all, but their faith was still in God. They didn’t blame, they just put their heads down and pushed on. Others chose to move on to other safer lands, realizing the limits of chariots. I greatly admire and respect them. They get it. There were and are, though, plenty of others who are still waiting around for someone to fix the chariots so that they can get back on with life. It’s those people that I am sorry for. I see many more like them in places outside of New Orleans. They have entrusted their lives to the chariot builders and that is just another disaster waiting to happen.
It is ironic to me, in a culture that claims evolutionary understanding and intellectual and technological might, that we can continue in our attempts to prove Darwin was right. We build towns in flood plains, million dollar homes in landslide zones and along fault lines, and cities in bowls within the seasonal track of the hurricanes. Yet we’re still surprised when the wheels fall off. The tragedy is that the people most impacted by this are the ones who have entrusted their lives to the chariot builders to keep them safe. My thought is that when God set the world in motion, he had little regard for the Army Corp of engineers’ ability to keep it in line. He wasn’t all that impressed with the tower of Babel and probably even less so in the concept of levees.
Now please understand that I am not trying to imply that God causes these disasters. On the contrary, I’m sure that it breaks His heart to witness the effects of a planet in decline. However, I imagine it much like a parent who watches a child continually return to the hot stove no matter how many times he’s been burned. There is not a chariot big enough or sophisticated enough to replace common sense, and that is a painful lesson for any parent to have to witness.

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