“God does not love us IF we change; God loves us so that we CAN change.” (Richard Rohr)
It’s been dramatic these past few weeks. First there was the eclipse (well, nearly total here in Newton) last week and then there were the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. These events remind us of the magnitude of God’s creation—and the magnitude of creation on humanity.
It was eerie to stand in my front yard holding my pinhole sheet of paper and see the steady loss of the sun’s circle. Then it was the change in temperature as the moon hid the sun’s rays. Finally, the lighted noon-day was now dusk like. It seemed like I was wearing sunglasses—but I wasn’t! I was trying to absorb the eclipse. Even though I knew what was happening in a technical sense, I was overwhelmed by this change in my surroundings. I wondered how this event might affect me if I was illiterate. What if I had never heard of “eclipse” in a science class? What if there had been no one warning us, selling special glasses, and daily reminders about not looking at the sun? Yet, even with ample preparation, I was stunned silent. I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event. I stood still while the earth changed the very air I breathed.
It is, on the other hand, just the opposite with hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I can see the water on television, the boats, the soaked carpets and the emergency shelters filled with traumatized people and pets. I’m not in Houston or Florida; I’m not standing in knee-deep water. Yet, even in Kansas, I experience a sense of fear, loss and sadness. I am amazed by both the power of water and the power of compassion. I am weary of the seeing unrelenting rain falling so fast that streets become rivers in the time it takes to go to the grocery store. The nation is stunned by the trauma and responds with donations, money and prayers. We are changed in our thinking about security. We are more aware of human relationships and of what is important.
I think Prairie View can change lives, too. It is a creation for dramatic change. People can step outside the therapist’s office and breathe deeply, sleep better, and cope longer. Each act of therapeutic intervention, each prescription, each resource changes the client’s life. Each word of encouragement, each smile, each offer of help, changes lives. It is this demonstration of love that allows transformation.
Ironically, those who offer services, write policies, maneuver through licensure regulations, open their doors to those seeking care, are also changed. They, too, cannot go back to blaming victims of trauma, forget about body chemistry, ignore caring.
Once you extend love, it empowers all to face difficulties and complicated diagnoses with new insight, new possibilities, new hope. That’s the power of God’s love.
Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite minister and denominational executive who served on the Prairie View Board for nine years.