Earthquakes, Truth, and Freedom

You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. ~ John 8:32

A large, 6.9 magnitude earthquake, rocked the San Francisco Bay area on October 17, 1989. I remember because my parents were living north of San Francisco at the time. My dad said, “I was taking a shower at our local gym and one of the after shocks knocked me off my feet. I thought maybe I was having a diabetic seizure. I wasn’t for sure what was going on. Mom just grabbed hold of a weight machine and hung on. We were rattled.”

They were lucky as well. The earthquake killed 63 people, wounded 3,753 people, and inflicted over $10 billion dollars’ worth of damage. Over twenty large aftershocks shook and rattled the ground for a week after the initial main shock. In an instant, lives changed forever.

Where do we stand when the ground is moving?

How often does the ground we stand on seem unstable? How often does our foundation weaken with a crack or just disappear? How often do our beliefs and values crumble to the core? Where do we stand when the earth quakes?

Many of us, myself included, have felt more unstable, shaken, and unsteady over the past few weeks. Russia invades Ukraine and we feel the aftershocks around the world. This is bigger than paying higher prices at the gas pump.  Are we headed toward World War III or nuclear annihilation? We crave stability, solid ground to stand on, blessed assurance.  Lord, we want to “hide in the shadow of your wings” (see Psalm 17:8).

A phone call, like an earthquake, can change everything in a heartbeat. I remember the late-night agonizing cry of my mother over forty years ago when she received the news that her father had passed away. Now, with her recent passing, I understand her lament. Each of us knows in a very deep and intimate way how the earth can shake, we fall to the ground, and we don’t know where to stand or even if we can stand.

Life is so good and precious, yet we are all vulnerable to personal and global crises. What is the Good News that we can lean into during our current instability and struggles? What can we lean into within our pain, our grief, our disbelief, our cracked foundations, and our shaky footing?

Jesus said, “the truth will set us free” (John 8:32).

“Healthy spirituality leads us to true liberation by naming what’s real, what’s true, and what works—now and in the long run. This Ultimate Reality, the way things really work, is quite simply described as love,” says Richard Rohr.

I believe with all my heart and soul that love perseveres, love wins, love endures, love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8). Only love has the power to mend our souls and transform our hearts. Yes, dictators can overrun a country with their tanks, but they cannot overrun God’s love which shines eternally within us, a light that cannot be extinguished. A truth that cannot be silenced. A truth that sets us free.

Mary looks with love into the eyes of her newborn son and wraps him tenderly in “bands of cloth and lays him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). That love endures, sustains them, and gives them strength to love their neighbors, to forgive and heal, to speak truth to power. An old couple hold each other up as they walk down the sidewalk evening after evening. They gaze at the red tulips and feel the warmth of the setting sun. Love sustains them.

What grounds us? Love or hate? Compassion or fear?

Enslaved people were told that their lives did not matter, yet they sang spirituals from the deep reservoir of love. “We shall overcome some day. Deep in our hearts, we do believe, we shall overcome some day.” Yes, violence, malevolence, and oppression have their day, but love overcomes hate against all odds.

When the earthquakes of life knock us off our feet, may we sink into God’s love and grace. May we take turns holding each other when we can’t stand on our own feet. Love happens. Love endures. This is the truth that sets us free and transforms the world one person at a time.

Blessings, peace, and love,