By David Ramos
Recently I watched two different television presentations on the tragic tsunami that occurred on December 26th, 2004. People with handheld video cameras caught the terror on film as the tsunami barreled down streets engulfing people, tearing up trees, dragging cars, and plummeting every weakly constructed building in its path. Lamentably many who survived the first wave were consumed by the second wave or dragged out to sea as the powerful waters receded. Film clips showed people desperately holding on to anything that wasn’t shaken free by this wall of water. The death toll was estimated at over an unfathomable 275,000 and the economic cost of a staggering $15 billion dollars! Moreover, a new set of problems had emerged because the debris field had to be cleared in order to get the help to those in need. I marveled as I saw pictures of the devastation along with its global impact. But I was equally moved to see the outpour of help that came from around the world in the tsunami’s aftermath.
As a staff minister of a mega-church, I have been recently counseling many people with severe problems, dramatic circumstances and emotionally overwhelming situations. Many seemed engulfed by feelings of grief, rejection, depression and/or disorientation. As I was praying the other day images of the tsunami kept coming to my mind and I felt the Lord grant me some lessons for those engulfed by apparent “emotional tsunamis”.
1. Move to Higher Ground
Many who were caught by the wave did not know that the receding shoreline was a sign of an immanent tsunami and remained in harms way. When dealing with people who are the cause or at least a catalyst in the problems we face, we need to move to “higher ground.” By engaging the problem in “lower ground” we face the problem at its most turbulent zone, a dangerous zone for conflict resolution. By “higher ground” I do not mean a “holier-than-thou” attitude, I mean rising to the ethics, attitude and behavior of a disciple of God. One can be firm while remaining dignified and not allowing others to abuse you. We are called to move to higher ground when facing our problems.
2. Just Because You Survive One Wave Doesn’t Mean Another Isn’t Coming
Many drop their guard when undergoing a crisis and do not anticipate the possibility of yet another wave of problems that can emerge on the horizon. A breakup in a marriage or relationship can be followed by an economic crisis, emotional or even a health crisis. Many people who have fallen into the dark pit of depression express that it wasn’t one problem in isolation that caused a breaking point, it was the constellation of problems that precipitated the perfect storm of emotional devastation. We ought to be sober-minded about reality and attempt to anticipate problems that can brew when undergoing existing problems.
3. Hold on to That Which Doesn’t Move!
King David constantly called God his “high tower,” “rock,” or “hiding place.” When David feared for his life, was surrounded by enemies, was engulfed by his sin, shaken by infirmity or forsaken by others, he sought the God who could not be shaken whose foundations are true and sure. Luke 6:48 reminds us that a person who puts the Word into practice is “like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.” We need to build and live a life that is based on God’s eternal Word.
4. We Need to Clean Out the Debris Field
Oftentimes feelings of rage, anger, hurt, rejection, un-forgiveness and/or shame remain long after an emotional tsunami has occurred. These emotions along with the associated thoughts and memories often obstruct the paths of healing, recuperation and restoration. While it is extremely difficult and may even feel unfair, we need to clear our hearts and minds from all the emotional debris if we are ever going to be whole. Just like a real tsunami, recovering from an emotional tsunami can take years. Nevertheless, we still have to clean up the mess so that life, beauty, productivity, freedom, liberation and joy can take the place of death, ugliness, feelings of being stuck, oppression and depression. To neglect this stage is to deny life. While it is difficult we are worth the work.
5. We Need to Help One Another
It’s amazing to see how death and suffering is the great equalizer of humanity. Solomon said that death happens to the rich and the poor, the prince and the pauper. We are all subject to the vagaries of life. Whenever there is a natural disaster it is inspiring to see how many are willing to help their fellow brother in sister in spite of their color, creed, culture or class. We truly need to help each other. In an answer to Cain’s inquiry—we are our brother’s keeper! When we are able to move beyond our own needs and suffering and move to help others, we not only demonstrate the highest characteristics of dignity and humanity, we also emulate the nature of “God-self.” Often times the step that has helped many break free from the shackles of depression has been when they moved away from self towards the needs and/or pain of others.
If we move to higher ground, understand that our present crisis does not exempt us from further problems, hold on to the promises of God’s Word, clean the emotional debris from our life, and help those around us, we can find hope, healing and health from the emotional tsunamis that threaten to engulf our lives.
David, I encourage you to use this reflection as a teaching model in Pastoral Care. It is an excellent working model for transitioning out of crisis. The writer continues to evolve…write, write, write mi hermano y amigo.
Muchisimas gracias! I am being moved in that direction. Sigue orando por mi.
After reading the Tsunami’s Wake, the first thing that comes to my mind is to be vigilant. While coming out of a crisis is exhausting being vigilant is necessary.
God bless you,