My earliest experience with a flood was in July of 1979. I was only 5 years old and my family and I were living in Friendswood, Texas. We hadn’t been there long. My mom had just married my stepfather a few months prior and we’d moved there from San Antonio to start our new life. If you’re not familiar with the area, Friendswood is just south of Houston, about 30 miles from the Gulf coastline, and about 15 miles from the Galveston Bay Area.
On the night of July 23rd, Tropical Storm Claudette came barreling towards our coastline, causing significant flooding in western Louisiana and East Texas. (Incidentally, have you ever noticed how many storms hit at night?) The storm devastated Friendswood, and our home was amongst the many that were completely flooded. My recollection, of course being only five, is spotty. But I recall waking up that following morning and stepping out of bed into inches of standing water.
What I remember most is experiencing the “suddenness” of loss. As a little girl, so much of what was dear and important to me was instantly gone. In particular, I remember a new life-sized coloring book I had just been given. It seems so trivial now, but not to the heart of that little girl. I was so mad at myself for leaving it on the floor the night before. I can still picture it, soaked through, dripping, ruined. But there wasn’t much time for me to focus on that. The waters were rising and we had to evacuate immediately.
Since both my parents were both totally blind, I, as the “seeing eye guide” of my family had to do what was needed of me in that moment. As much as I would have rather closed my eyes, bury my face into my mom’s chest and hope it was all a bad dream I’d soon wake up from, I had to open my eyes, turn towards it, face this big ugly thing staring right at me, see, communicate and guide clearly. For them. For us.
Imagine, if you can, trying to navigate an evacuation like that with a blindfold on and all you have is a clueless, scared five year old little girl directing you. As afraid as I was, I can’t imagine what that must have felt like for my parents. Panic. Helplessness. Fear. I remember their presence well.
I remember boats. People everywhere. Some standing on the roofs of their homes. Dark, muddy water levels that reached up to people’s chests. Children, sitting on their daddy’s shoulders. Elderly women having to awkwardly climb into inflatable rescue vessels. I remember a short stay in an emergency shelter. A school, I believe. And then moving in with some friends from church for a little while after that. Eventually, we got back on our feet. My parents decided to move back to San Antonio and we started over…again.
The effects of floods are devastating. It’s heart-wrenching for anyone to have to endure the process it takes to recover. It’s an entirely different kind of pain for anyone to have to sift through the drenched, muddied pieces of their lives, salvage what they can, and find the courage, (the desire even) it takes to rebuild. And while not every one of us will have to suffer through this this type of natural disaster, something I have learned is that we all, most likely at one point in our lives or another, will be faced with the daunting task of recovering from a different kind of flood: a spiritual one. One that strikes at the very core of who we are. One that soaks us through, surrounding us on every side, threatening to overwhelm us completely. And one that is driven by a nature, a characteristic, a force, that comes only to steal, kill and destroy so much of what is dear to us.
“A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!” John 10:10 TPT
When that happens, what do we do? How do we go through it without stalling in the midst of it? How do we stir up the desire to hope and dream and start…again?
We often talk about the storms of life. But rarely, do we speak about floods. Floods come as a result of a storm, but they’re not the same as the storm itself. Not every storm comes with a flood, but every flood definitely comes as a result of a storm. The storm is like the initial contraction – the impetus – that sets on course the torrents of the flood. But while storms descend, floods rise. While storms strike, floods linger. And floods take a different level of awareness, time, energy and process to recover from.
I felt led to share this blog series because for some, there are areas where you are simply not experiencing breakthrough. Things might get better for a little while, only to find yourself right back in the same spot again. I’d like to propose that maybe, it’s because whatever you are dealing with that led to where you are now came as the result of a flood and not just a storm. Floods are pervasive. And we can’t just (metaphorically speaking) slap some paint on the walls and stick a plug-in in the outlet when there’s actual flooring and sheetrock that needs to be ripped out and replaced.
Having been through some spiritual storms myself, over the next few posts in this series I’d like to share a bit about what God has taught me in identifying the difference between a storm and a flood. Knowing when the waters have receded. Discerning whether we need to renovate or completely rebuild. And ultimately, how to recover and keep moving forward.
If this sounds like something you can relate to, I hope you’ll tune in.
Linda G Riddle