I planned to finish up my Katrina notes long before now, but with the start of school at NOBTS (my job) and UNO (Kimberly’s job) things got really busy at the office and at home. Over Labor Day we went on a family mission trip to Atlanta. Then I battled cold and sinus troubles.
As I finally sat down to write, I realized just how hard my task would be. I wanted to capture the way this event has changed me and made me better. More than that, I wanted to say that this bad event in my life has been redeemed. The storm continues the impact my life on a daily basis. So many lessons have been learned; so many more to be learned.
Some people just want me and the millions affected by Katrina to “get over it.” I understand that sentiment, but I cannot simply dismiss this teachable moment in my life. I cannot live as if it never happened. That would be a tragic waste.
I recently told a friend that Katrina was the “best worst” thing that ever happened to me. Okay, Katrina is not literally “the best” thing that ever happened to me (trusting Christ, marrying Kimberly and Jonathan’s birth all top Katrina on the “goodness” scale). Katrina is not the worst thing either. My Dad’s sudden death when I was 14 is easily THE WORST thing I have experienced. But the phrase “best worst thing” captures many of the emotions I feel about the storm, the recovery and the peace I have about the outcome.
Along with all the bad that blew in during the storm and the immediate aftermath, came a very positive restoration process. Katrina left an indelible mark on my life – it changed my point of view, sharpened my focus and stirred my passions. I don’t want to “get over” those things.
One of the funniest things that happened in the aftermath of the storm – I became an award-winning writer. I am sure my college English teachers would call for a recount (I am a product of good editors). I certainly didn’t feel like an “award-winning writer” at work today as a struggled to complete a writing assignment. But seriously, the awards came from my peers and I was honored to receive them. I know the awards were more about power of the Katrina story and the people profiled in the articles than my writing skills.
Back to the issue at hand … The Bible talks about how God can take all the things that happen to us and use them for His purpose. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This verse (Romans 8:28) is found in one of the most powerful chapters found in Holy Scripture.
Consider jazz music for a moment — one the Crescent City’s major contributions to the world.
The next time you hear jazz on the radio, listen closely. Listen to the layers. You might be surprised. Most jazz tunes have a lot going on. I’m listening to jazz as I write this. The pianist is doing this, the drummer is doing that. There goes the bassist. And this song is being performed by jazz trio. Imagine how a few horns could complicate things.
As you listen to jazz, try to isolate each instrument. Individually the musicians are all over the place. It’s really hard to believe that all this is going on in the same song. At any point it seems like the whole thing is one step away from falling into chaos. But it all comes together to make something beautiful.
At any given time, we have so many things coming our way — pain, disappointment, joy, sorrow, anxiety, happiness and regret. We lose the ones we love. We reach great heights of joy. We slip to the deepest lows. We get ourselves into trouble with our own selfish actions. Bad things happen that are totally out of our control. Sometimes our dreams come true.
“Listen” to each one of these events alone and you don’t “hear the richness of the complete “song.” You don’t hear the “symphony.” Each event seems unrelated and unredeemable. But in the hands of God, our lives and circumstances somehow come together to make something beautiful – something with a rich purpose.
That’s how I feel about Katrina. Katrina was not good. People died. The city was destroyed. But somehow, God brought forth good out of a bad thing and it’s something I cannot and will not “get over.”
“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5