It has been quite a sight seeing the old Lower School and Scottish Arts buildings come down. People with deep ties to our community have watched with sadness and hope as these buildings that hold so many memories have come down. The Middle School is next. That era of life is infused with the powerful memory of coming of age. I poignantly remember coming of age in middle school with Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and New Wave music — so you have my sympathy. It is a powerful, defining time.
Two Years Ago
As we watch an old chapter of our lives together close and a new one begin, I think it is only appropriate to remember the event that brought us to this day. Two years ago today (although the dates are a little different), I waded into the nave of the church in knee-high hunting boots. Dark mahogany floated in the dirty water while the feedback of a struggling, yet still game sound system reverberated throughout the large space. We were just beginning to measure the extent of the damage wrought by the hurricane and its resultant flooding.
Two days before I was able to go into the church, I was in a kayak in Meyerland.Two grim-faced men in a canoe were evacuating a young family. In the back of their canoe, a little boy sat with a look of abject terror on his face. I saw a lady in her pajamas on her front porch in waist high water who had clearly lost her mind over what she was experiencing. I saw people sitting on the porches of built-up houses staring off into the distance. Many have not been the same since.
The Limits of Ability
So many stories. You have your own. As we prepare ourselves to move forward, we remember the tragedy — the wound — we all share. People we love are no longer with us. Some have moved away. Some have gone to be with the Lord. Some have experienced the unbearable weight placed upon their families. Yes, Houston Strong™ and all that — but only for so long. If we are honest and seek to integrate healthily our experiences into our lives, we realize that, actually, we reached the limits of our ability to control our circumstances. Those limits are far more constrictive than we are told — or actually believe ourselves.
In his seminal work, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes:
In prison…a human being confronts his grief face to face. This grief is a mountain, but he has to find space inside himself for it, to familiarize himself with it, to digest it, and it him. This is the highest form of moral effort, which has always ennobled every human being.
He is writing, of course, about the horrors of Communism but it is a profound insight into any wound, grief, or tragedy. It must be looked at, seen for what it is, and digested. In order for health and life to continue, it must not be denied but allowed to become a part of who we are. And look at the end of his thought, this insight he paid so dear a price to be able to share with us: there is hope in it. It is hard and unpleasant but it ennobles every human being who does it. It can ennoble all of us.
Preparing and Remembering
Today, as we prepare to take our next steps into a new future, let us look back and remember. Let us find space within ourselves for what we have all gone through together. Let us remember the tragic loss and heroic efforts. Let us remember our resilience as well as the terrified little boy in the back of the canoe. This is the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. Let us digest it and let it become a part of who we are. It is hard to remember — but remembering ennobles us. It makes us human. It reveals our limitedness and it makes us look up, in complete dependence, to a God who loves us.