Red River, Spring 2009
“The Lord tenderly loves those who have the happiness of abandoning themselves totally to the fatherly care of Divine Providence. They do no stop to consider if it is advantageous or not to their own interests. Let us be convinced that the fatherly heart of God will never allow anything that is not for our greater good.” (Sermons 29; O. IX, p. 284)
[From Everyday with St. Francis de Sales, edited by Rev. Francis J. Klauder]
You’d think we’d be used to this by now – the urgent calls for sandbag filling, the sight of the earth splattered haphazardly on paved roads as dikes are constructed, the sounds of sirens and sights of police vehicles escorting flatbed semis stacked with sandbags — yellow, orange and white — on their way to flood-threatened neighborhoods. We’ve been here before, after all.
It’s been interesting to observe our slow awakening regarding the latest spring flood threat here in the Red River Valley. Typically, after a flood of historic proportions, a reprieve settles in. Years go by without another such event – years that allow time to plan and prepare to avoid the possibility of being caught, again, like sitting ducks.
I wouldn’t say lethargy or even apathy caused such a slow awakening. Instead, we’d only begun to recover from last year’s flooding episode when the possibility of another came in view. The human mind and heart can only take in so much. One intense event after another has been tough to adjust to; many simply could not “go there” until the imminent likelihood of another flood was in our faces.
And so we find ourselves here again, earlier than anticipated, on the edge of something troubling. We have a growing-by-the-hour awareness that the river is hungry and seems intent on swallowing us whole. Time is not on our side – predictions changed too quickly. We are at the wild whim of Mother Nature.
So in the context of this, what does surrender mean? Certainly, it doesn’t mean we sit back and wait it out. It means we stay attentive to the news, make plans, roll up our sleeves, prepare our children for what could happen and assure them of our presence and protection.
In such times, when our well-being is at risk, surrender is a difficult word to wrap our brains around. We are in fight or flight mode. How does one surrender while in motion?
In the last couple days, I have felt low in energy. I feel as though I am saving up for whatever is to come. Outside, it is gray and wet and muddy. Once again, it feels like we will not be allowed to revel in the coming spring, because spring has arrived holding hands with the annoying new kid, who wears an ominous cloak of black.
But through all this, I do not feel despair. I am positioning myself to take some kind of action, to haul the lower level of our home upstairs again, to lend my arms to pile sandbags if necessary, to bring the kids to safe harbor if it comes to that.
I will do what I must and give it whatever I have. And then, when the time is right, I’ll take a look around and assess God’s loving hand in all of this, and how and whether He plans to use me through it.
I aim to be a vessel, to be used to bring His light to others in whatever way He wills it, even now.
I’m close, I think, to understanding what surrender really means. Now, to have the courage to follow through.