The photos of the town we used to live in make me sick. How arid Colorado could produce so much water is beyond me. My brother Josh, who lives in west Denver, texted me saying he hadn’t seen this much rain since our family moved there in 1984. “Noahically,” he called it. He lives at the base of North Table Mountain. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision what all that water could turn that hill into.
Having witnessed the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, scrambled for cover during earthquakes in L.A., huddled in the basement during multiple tornado seasons in Kansas, and braced for storms in Biloxi, Miss., I know what natural disasters can do. But I thought our home state of Colorado was, for the most part, “safe.” No tornadoes to speak of. No earthquakes. No hurricanes. No volcanic eruptions. But then came the wildfires of last year and now this year’s torrential rains.
We watch stunned at the destruction the water has caused. We weep to hear that people have lost lives and loved ones. We scan Facebook and see photographs of parks we’ve played at, places we’ve loved, now all underwater, familiar landscapes unrecognizable.
Safety, or what we thought was safety, was a comforting illusion. It is easy to trust God when the climate cooperates, when rivers stay within their bounds and mountains stay capped. When other parts of the world are waved over by tsunamis and our own nation experiences evil like 9/11, we grieve, but silently breathe relief, “Thank God, it isn’t us.”
Until, of course, it is.
In 1997, Fort Collins, Colo., had a different flood. We were driving home that night with three babies buckled in the backseat when a wall of water hit our car and we started to slide. With our tires barely making contact with the road, we missed the entrance to our neighborhood. Once home, trailers down the street tumbled while we sat shaking in our living room, wondering if the ditch behind us would not only empty into our yard and cul-de-sac, but also into the house where our three babies slept. Should we leave? Should we stay? What if Horsetooth Reservoir sprang a leak, or, worse, gave way under all that water? Visions of swimming with babies in our arms haunted our fitful sleep. Two parents for three babies was a nightmarish mathematical formula neither of us knew how to solve.
This time we watch from afar. Our home in Tornado Alley, for once, is the safer place to be. All that changes, of course, come May. But for now, things are “safe.” Or as safe as any place is. It makes me think of the scene in the Beaver’s house in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Speaking of Aslan, Lucy asks, “Then he isn’t safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Life isn’t safe. Even in Colorado. Neither, Lewis would say, is God. Fear-riddled as we may be, unsettled as we may be, we can’t forget what else Lewis said, that God is both “King” and … “good.” I don’t know about you, but I read those words to mean that no matter what else happens to us, when it comes to our souls, there isn’t a disaster on earth we need to worry about.