The Feast Day of Lancelot Andrewes
The insurance adjuster was here earlier today, and she told us that our little piece of the great Colorado flood disaster of 2013 was, like so many others’, not covered by our homeowner’s policy. We were hoping that since ours was water damage due to a leaky roof rather than flooding, we might have a chance. But no.
The adjuster was more than a little shell-shocked, I think. Halting and vacant-eyed she told me that we were so much better off than so many other people whose property she had inspected. This was, at that moment, not the most welcome news. Why do people think that in your moments of tragedy you want to hear that somebody else has it so much worse?
Unaware of my upset, she went on to tell me I wouldn’t believe what she had seen. “Terrible damage,” she said, shaking her head slowly from side to side as though she could dislodge the images that way.
It is certainly, I have to admit, all true. Now that the waters have subsided, people are left with mud two feet deep in their living rooms. Let me tell you, that’s a heavy, smelly substance to try to remove. Crumbling walls sprout mold. Soggy furniture is full of the dangerous chemicals of the flood water and is mildewing. Other personal property has disappeared or is not salvageable.
Last year the wildfires drove people out of their homes in the foothills, and I listened to sobering stories of houses lost, buildings still standing but devastated by smoke damage, a year’s supply of food rotting in freezers that could not be cleansed of the stench and had to be simply sealed up and thrown away.
In all these disasters so much is gone that can never be replaced. It makes me wonder what a person can reasonably expect to protect. Not much, it seems. We humans are always striving to create a world of order and reason, a place we can master, an environment over which we have some control. We have made better lives for ourselves over the centuries – in some ways – and yet we live close, always, to the edge of chaos. All that we have built up can be and often is torn down.
When the going gets rough my family turns to humor to sustain us. Having heard that our roof is disintegrating, we were joking last night that perhaps we should plant a Christmas tree up there. By Christmas it could be expected to have joined us in the sitting room, and we could sing carols around it and watch the stars at the same time.
These moments of chaos, though, throw us back into an awareness that ultimately there is only one sure thing: the deep and sustaining union of all that is in God. This makes such good sense of the simple prayer Jesus left us: Your kingdom come. Give us bread. Forgive us; we’re working on forgiving each other.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado