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We Are Inseparable

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On May 3, 1999, at age 12, I watched the destruction that the EF5
tornado caused in the Oklahoma City metro area. The damage was
tremendous and I knew the needs in the coming days, months, and years
would be sundry. However, I convinced myself that it would never
happen to me or my community. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime
storm.

Fourteen years later, as a pastor in a United Methodist Church in
Moore, I thought back to 1999 as I helped hurry people into the safe
room at our church. Drawn to the chaos -- as we often are -- I peeked
out the door of the church to see the tornado in the distance before
locking our group into the safe room. The image and the sounds of the
storm will remain with me for the rest of my life.

The storm passed and we walked back out into streets filled with
debris. We were looking at splintered pieces of people's homes and
lives -- insulation, shingles, wood, and family photos. We found a
photo of a boy opening a Christmas present and a photo of a woman
holding her newborn. Whether we wanted it or not, the aftermath of the
storm mingled our lives, stirred them together. We are inseparable now
in ways that we were not before the storm came.

Shortly after emerging from the safe room, a woman approached another
pastor and me on the sidewalk. Her cell phone was not working and she
was in a different place than the rest of her family when the tornado
passed through. She did not know if her house was gone or if her
husband and child were alive. Storms do not care if we are together or
apart. She finally received a text message: "The house is gone, but we
are okay." She read the text out loud a few times, convincing herself,
perhaps, that her loved ones were unscathed. She looked up at me and
the other pastor and asked, "Can I have a hug?" She wept between our
shoulders. We said nothing; we simply shared the embrace and the
tears.

I was reminded of Job. When he lost everything, his friends came to
see him. Job had pulled out his hair, so they pulled out theirs. Job
had torn his clothes, so they tore theirs. Job was covered in dirt, so
they covered themselves in dirt. Then, because Job was sitting there
silently his friends sat with him silently for seven days. It was when
they opened their mouths to explain the cause of Job's troubles that
they ruined the experience. We need to embrace that, sometimes, the
right thing to say is nothing, and simply share the embrace and the
tears.

Whether we wanted it or not, the storm has joined the new mother to
the boy and his Christmas gift, the two pastors on the street to the
wife and mother who lost her home but kept her family.

We are inseparable.