Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons Learned

     Today I am tired and sore.  My back aches, my shoulder is bruised and my neck is sunburned.  I feel blessed to have earned these minor discomforts.  I feel honored that I was able to give just a little to something bigger than myself.  Seeing what has happened to Joplin shakes a person to the core.  There is just no way to take it all in and even more impossible to put it into words.  I think it will take a long time for me to digest all that I have seen and experienced over the last weekend, but I have learned a few things through this tragedy.

     Digging through piles of rubble and seeing what can happen in an instant to the treasures we collect was an eye opening experience.  Our sense of value is so skewed.   I thought about the treasures I have collected, the money we have spent on adornments for our home.  For the first time, I think I really got a glimpse of what it was all really worth.  I saw people who lost everything thankful for a meal, praising God that they were alive.  We lie to ourselves and make ourselves believe that we are protected by our wealth.  I saw first hand how everything can be swept away in an instant.  I makes one stop and consider if there is not a better investment that can be made with our labor and wealth then filling our house with trinkets.  So many of the volunteers I worked with said the same thing, "This makes me want to go home and get rid of everything I don't need."  In the end whether a tornado destroys it all or we keep it all horded away, the saying remains true, we can't take it with us. I want to start focusing more on people and less on things.  I want to start laying up my treasure in heaven where moth and rust and tornadoes don't destroy.  Ask the people of Joplin about treasure.  They will tell you what really is important.

     I learned that there is truly something great in humanity.  Yes we are a fallen, messed up lot.  We can be selfish and stubborn and mean.  There will always be people trying to get ahead at the expense of another.  However bleak the human condition seems at times, I understand now that there is also a part that is selfless, giving, and beautiful.  It seems odd that it usually only against the backdrop of unimaginable tragedy that this part of humanity comes into focus.  It is comforting to me to know that while we are broken, we have not completely lost all of the good qualities that God built into us.  We are more than mere animals, each looking out only for his own survival.  We are tiny imperfect images of God.  Maybe that is why He has not completely washed his hands of us.  Maybe He continues to love us despite our many evils, because He can see us as he created us and longs to restore us to the what we were created to be.  It's not so different from my own children who often exacerbate me to no end, who lie, and fight and tend to destroy what we give them.  Still though, there is nothing more wonderful than holding them close in my lap after a good bath, knowing that they are a part of me and that they love me as much as I love them.

     I have learned a new appreciation for my wife.  It was her heart for the people of Joplin that made this weekend a reality.  I never would have gone if It had not been for her.  She came to me and said that she wanted to do something for the people who had been effected by the tornado.  I half-heartedly agreed to go with her.  She went all out getting supplies donated and contacting pastor Vogel of Grace Baptist Church so that we would have a place to get tied in.  She passionately urged others to go when she stood before our church on Sunday and I believe that she was responsible for stirring the hearts of 40 some people to go and serve on Memorial day.  I hate to admit that sometimes I need her to push me to do what I need to do, but don't necessarily want to do.  There's no telling what I've just opened myself up to once she reads this.  I mean it though.  It is often because of her that I am motivated to be a better person, sometimes sometimes gladly and sometimes less enthusiastically.  It is just one of the many reasons I need her in my life.

      I hope most of all that I have learned to be content with what I have and hold it with an open hand.  I have been blessed with so much in my life, but it could all disappear tomorrow.  I don't know how I would react if I woke to find that everything I owned was washed away.  I hope that, like so many people I have met this weekend, I could say that what really matters was still just as present and just as real as before.  We have God and our families, friends and neighbors, all else is just decoration. 


  1. You are so right on in everything you wrote. I gained a lifetime of sermon illustrations in two hours of walking the streets and praying/visiting/counseling with people. The world and its lusts are passing away.

    I just finished skimming through some of the obituaries in the Joplin newspaper. All ages and stages of life were struck down. It appears that a few were even in Joplin from out of town but killed there. It underscores the truth of Scripture - man knows not his hour.

    Major props go to Karlye on this. I had myself pretty well convinced I couldn't go because of my health. However, she said something like this: "Even if you could only go for two hours, they would still be grateful." It make me realize that if I get down there and have to quit after a while, so what???? Do what you can when you can do it!!!!

    Great, great post Bill.

  2. Bill...thanks for sharing this post. One can learn some valuable lessons just by reading this. I have yet to go to Joplin. I even have family in Joplin that have lost everything and I have still made excuses why I can't go. My friend called me and is planning to go down in a week and he wants me to go with him. I have no more excuses. I can be so selfish with my time and in the process I fail to experience what life is really about. Thanks again, for sharing.


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