(Following the pattern established last week, “Dispatches” will appear on Friday. Today’s just a regular ol’ post. Deal with it.)
When disaster hits—like the flood that has recently devastated my city—you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. I, for one, am proud of the people of my adopted state of Tennessee and city of Nashville. As a Show-Me State girl (through and through), I’ve made fun of the nickname Volunteer State, but I get it now. My home state’s nickname refers to a Midwestern stubbornness and and a spirit of hard work and common sense; Tennessee’s refers to a spirit that will do whatever it takes to help whomever they can. And despite a lack of national news coverage and help from other states, we’ve rallied and served, helped, reach out to, and ministered to one another. I’m proud to live in the Volunteer State these days!
But I’ve also learned a lot about myself in the aftermath of the flooding. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
• I am SPOILED! I have always known this to a certain degree, but it’s become very clear to me in the whole water conservation movement in Davidson County. See, a few months ago during a Bible study I was doing, I got very convicted of how much water I wasted when there are people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water, much less enough water to take long soaking baths with pretty smelling scents. So, I thought to myself that I needed to start being a better steward of my water. I’d take shorter showers, I thought to myself. I’ll turn the faucet off more instead of letting it run. I’ll strive to do less laundry. Um, yeah. We’re about 4 days in to a county-wide drive to use 50 percent less water and I’ve discovered all of those “water conservation” efforts I was “making” add up to jack nothing. Me thinking and saying those things were not water conservation; it was an ice cream cone statement I said to myself to make me feel better and not really require anything from me. Right now, I’m using bottled water to brush my teeth. I only turn on the faucet to lather up my hands then again to rinse them off when I’m washing them. I can’t wash my hair every day. I haven’t washed clothes since last week sometime. I’m waiting until I have a huge pile of dishes before I wash them. I can’t give my dog a bath. I can’t even flush the toilet every time I use it. That, my friends, is the reality in Nashville right now. And this “sacrifice” has shown me that most of the time, I’m the most important person in my life. There are people in this city having to deal with much bigger hardships than not getting to take a shower every day.
• That leads into the next lesson I’ve learned: I am selfish. Actually, this isn’t a new lesson. My selfishness, pride, and ability to make everything about me is something I pray about often. I mean, if I’m asked to sing in an ensemble or something at church, I find myself thinking about how awesome I am and hoping that everyone is paying attention to me. . . when that’s really not the point. When I wrote a blog post earlier this week that got a lot of hits, there were a few moments when I went to the “what if I get all famous and stuff?” place. Like I said in the previous paragraph, though, this week has taught me that there are a lot of people in need—in this city and this world. It’s not all about me. And the really cool, interesting, and convicting part is that it never has been. I remember the first time I really understood that truth. I had been living in Nashville for about 5 months, I’d say, and I was at a service for young adults that a church here in downtown Nashville used to do on Tuesday nights. I remember clearly standing in that sanctuary and after the sermon, simply praying and saying, “God, it’s never been about me, has it? It’s always been about you. You deserve the glory.” Oh, God loves me and I feel that love and the generous way He has protected and cared for me, but it’s not about me. It’s about Him. I am not the center of attention. And that’s a lesson I find myself having to learn over and over.
• Lesson #3: I am sometimes overwhelmed by anxiety. Honestly, I’ve been a worrier for a long time, but it has never reached a crippling, truly sinful state until the last couple of years. In the past few years, I have come to understand and claim that verse in Scripture about God not giving us a spirit of fear. I don’t necessarily think that means that fear magically disappears from our lives if we’re Christians. I think fear is one of the Devil’s greatest tools (and yes, I believe there is a real, actual Devil) and that for some of us, it’s something we’re going to have to continually battle against. It’s not a battle you win once and then you get a free pass from for the rest of your life. There’s a reason Jesus said following Him would be hard, folks. In the past year or so, I went through a very deep, dark valley in my faith and anxiety was one of the crippling strongholds in that time. I now recognize when it’s building in my chest and lodging in my throat. And I’m beginning to see some of the things that trigger it. One of them is a feeling of helplessness and lack of control, which is what I felt this weekend. I’m not going to lie, guys: When I realized the severity of this situation, I got scared. Really frightened and there was nothing I could do to fix this situation. I couldn’t stop the rain. I couldn’t rescue people from being swept off the road or losing their homes. I couldn’t help friends of mine dealing with minor water issues or having anxiety attacks of their own because I couldn’t get anywhere in town because of all the flooded roads and the rain that came down so hard for so long. I don’t know if I’ll every forget that the sound of that beating rain. Somewhere in the middle of my anxiety, though, I recognized that I needed to turn off the endless weather coverage and stop feeding the anxiety. And I needed to turn to God. So, I spent some time praying and reading Psalms aloud, crying as I did. The anxiety didn’t magically go away, but I remembered who I was. And I had a knowledge deep in my bones that no matter what, everything really was going to be OK. And it really is.
• There are a lot of people who just get it in Nashville. I don’t know why—maybe because we’re the so-called “Buckle of the Bible Belt”—but there are people in this city who get what it means to be a Christian, a “little Christ.” It doesn’t matter that cleaning the muck out of someone’s house isn’t easy or comfortable. It doesn’t matter that conserving water isn’t easy or comfortable. It doesn’t matter to a friend of mine that he’s displaced from his riverfront condo right now; he’s been out in West Nashville at a hard hit area helping people who have likely lost everything. If we are called to serve others, to show the world God’s love and display His glory; to love others because Christ first loved us, there are people in Nashville right this very moment who are doing just that. And I’m just happy that I get to see it and hopefully, be one of them.