Picking Up the Pieces

Dena Johnson Martin

In May 2013, Oklahoma was hit—HARD. A monster EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, chewing up everything in its path. Every street was littered with piles of trees and fences. Entire neighborhoods were wiped out, leaving behind nothing more than heaps of bricks and mortar.

We watched in horror as the monster ate up schools and hospitals and banks and businesses. We drove by heaps of mangled metal, twisted and wrapped like flexible ropes. Nothing was safe. Nothing was the same.

My home town of Newcastle was forever changed. The old railroad bridge that was once a landmark, permanently emblazoned on the town seal, is now only a memory. The absence of the bridge serves as a permanent reminder of what once was.

Over the months we watched as the reminders of that horrible day were hauled off. Foundations were wiped clean in preparation for the rebuilding process. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it must have been to lose everything, to begin picking up the pieces of a life and start over.

And yet, Oklahoma has once again moved forward, putting the devastation behind us and rebuilding. We’ve seen the hospital rebuilt, the theater repaired. The schools have been rebuilt, complete with safe rooms and memorials to the children lost on that fateful day. The homes are new, bigger than before, more beautiful than one could ever imagine.

While I can’t imagine losing everything in a tornado, I am reminded of the storm that hit my life over seven years ago. My perfect life as pastor’s wife and mother was hit by an EF-5 known as adultery and divorce. I stood looking at my life, overwhelmed, trying to figure out where to begin. I looked at the heap of twisted metal, and I could do nothing to fix the mess. The tears flowed freely. The pain was unbearable; I couldn’t pray or open my Bible.

But, the Holy Spirit was interceding for me.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. Romans 8:26

I found myself angry with God, wondering how he could allow this type of devastation to my life. I had done everything right: I went to college, married the man God told me to, served Him obediently. And yet, here I stood looking at nothing but rubble. How could I ever go on? Where do you start rebuilding your life when you’ve lost everything? Why go on?

Because God promises He will make something good out of devastation.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

In my anger, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to walk in obedience to God again. Sure, I could do the “right” thing and continue to go to church, but on the inside I just wanted to sulk. His way didn’t work out so well, so I might as well live life my way—and have some fun along the way.

He loves us even when we are faithless.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

As the days wore on, I felt this overwhelming sense that God was relentlessly pursuing me. He was calling me to run to Him for my security. The harder I ran from Him, the more He tried to get my attention. Eventually, I gave into His pursuit. I began to read the word and spend time in prayer again. My Savior’s love enveloped me and began to give me a vision for the future.

A future with Him is always full of hope!

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will by found by you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

As difficult as it was to let go of the past—of what I had always planned for my life—I began to allow God to push away the pile of rubble. He began to reveal the foundation of my life which was still intact, and that foundation was Jesus Christ. Eventually, everything was wiped clean. It was time to begin the rebuilding process.

We must let go of the past.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

God brought in new wood and bricks. The plans were different from what I had always imagined, but the master builder was in charge. As the years pass, I realize my life was permanently altered. It will never look like it did before my divorce. But, what God is doing in my life is far greater than what I had planned. It’s an exciting time to see what God will do. It will be bigger and better than what had been before!

God is beginning a new work!

Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Isaiah 43:18-19

God is in the rebuilding business. No matter how much destruction and devastation has taken place in your life, He will not rest until He has repaid the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). With every step toward my new future, I have the promise that God is with me, He is in control, He will never stop until His purposes are accomplished.

The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. 1 Peter 5:10

What destruction and devastation have you experienced? Are you allowing God to lead you in the process of rebuilding? If not, surrender and let Him take over. He is the master builder! He delights in making something beautiful out of the rubble!

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20