Fighting for Love in Columbia, SC

It rained over twenty inches in our fair city last weekend. This weird radar-red and yellow arm reached way up out of Hurricane Joaquin , pinned Columbia down and kept pouring water on our heads. Coming on the heels of over a week of soaking rains, this final unrelenting round of Joaquin waterboarding threatened to drown us. We spluttered and coughed, but thankfully, we survived.

flood Justin

Creeks and streams filled to overflowing Saturday night. Dams on neighborhood lakes liquified and began to breach. On Sunday morning our friend Justin launched his fishing boat down a nearby street in his subdivision and began rescuing people whose homes were quickly filling with water—one family huddled together on top of their kitchen table. Where else do you go when your car is already under three feet of rising water and there is no dry land in sight?

The Governor and first responders asked all the churches to cancel services and everyone to stay home. Water treatment plants went down and we had to start boiling our water. The rain tapered off and stopped on Monday, but we were still under curfew. On Tuesday the sun came out and thousands like us who had not suffered any damage began to help thousands who had no insurance agents to turn to because they lived nowhere near a flood plain, had no reason to buy flood insurance, but were still flooded. Collection sites began to flood with bottled water, non-perishable food and household items needed to start over.

Friends of the flooded put the addresses of their needy friends on social media and networks of people began showing up with push brooms and shop vacs, cutting out soggy sheetrock, spraying exposed studs with Clorox and setting up fans. You could drive through the loveliest parts of Columbia and see driveways full of oriental rugs, oil paintings and Chippendale dining room suits drying in the perfectly sunny and 70 degree weather.

By Tuesday evening I-26 was open again, which made for clear sailing to the airport early Wednesday morning. Among the passengers waiting to board I couldn’t miss the guy with “The Weather Channel” emblazoned across his shirt. It was a sign: The weather drama here is over. The great Sauron eye of the national media was moving on, searching elsewhere for compelling stories.

As I boarded my plane I felt like a rat bailing out of a sinking ship. I was off for a not very dramatic week of caregiving to an elderly family member recovering from surgery. Serving meals, cooking soup, washing and folding clothes, watering dusty flowers, dying for a drink in the rainless, 90-degree Dallas fall. Three times a day we empty the wound drains, measure and record the bodily fluids, fill out the chart to report to the doctor. It is a messy, bloody business, as caregiving often is.

Part of living in today’s entertainment culture is that flooded homes and rescues rivet our attention. There is real danger and real risk in the threat of rising water. Tearing out soggy sheetrock isn’t quite as dramatic. Finding contractors and helping people find their way through insurance and FEMA forms is even less so. But the need goes on long after the “drama” fades and the media spotlight moves on.

Thank God that, when the danger and stakes are high, love rescues in dramatic fashion. Like my friend Justin, love goes out into a rainy waterworld and snatches terrified people from waters full of snakes and floating islands of fire ants and brings them to dry ground. We need a rescuing kind of love when we are surrounded by watery darkness or spiritual darkness.

I count it a privilege to be a part of another, less dramatic, less romantic kind of love. It’s not newsworthy, but it makes me smile to know it is precious in God’s sight. Here in the daily post-op routine in Dallas I link arms with my friends back in Columbia who are now spending hours pulling out nails and moving boxes out of condemned apartments.

“What a man needs is steadfast love,” the psalmist said. It’s not very sexy. But the stakes are still high.

Instead of fighting floods we’re fighting discouragement, confusion, frustration. We offer our practical help and presence to let others know they are not alone. And behind our loving arms stands a God who loves them more than they can imagine.

More than anything we pray they get a glimpse of his infinitely steadfast love. Through the bloody mess of Jesus’ death he offers rescue from the eternal danger of the sin that separates us from him. All we do is receive it by faith.

Long after we depart he is always with them, that presence shimmering through the glass darkly. Never leaving or forsaking. United with Jesus he gives us the power to renew our strength, forgive those who hurt us and offer his steadfast love to others.

Thanks to all who have been heroic rescuers or steadfast helpers in Jesus’ name, especially in Columbia. May God renew our strength for the big, unreported story of recovery ahead.

How have you offered help or been helped in Jesus name? What did it mean to you? Please respond in the comment section below…


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