Posted by: smstrouse | March 19, 2011

What’s In Your Spiritual Earthquake Kit?

As the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan reminded us, we are all vulnerable to the forces of nature. When I first came to the Bay Area, I was alarmed by notices I saw everywhere with instructions for what to do during an earthquake. This east coast transplant knew what to do in a blizzard, but an earthquake is a whole different thing, a whole new learning curve.

So I had to learn how to be prepared, how to make an earthquake kit. The earthquake in Japan has reminded me to check my food and water supplies, flashlight batteries, and (most important) cat food supply. But as I was making my list of survival needs, I realized that what I also needed was a spiritual earthquake kit. The only thought I’d given previously to my spiritual survival was in the early days of commuting to San Francisco from Berkeley. For some reason, people delight in talking about the 1989 quake when part of the Bay Bridge collapsed. I found myself praying every time I was on the bridge, “Oh God, not now!”

So what should be in my spiritual earthquake kit?  I can’t help thinking about Ben Larson, the seminary student who died in the earthquake in Haiti last year. His wife, who had been able to get out of the collapsed building, could hear Ben singing hymns underneath the rubble until he died. So I’ve been asking myself what hymns or songs would be of inspiration and comfort to me if I ever find myself in such a situation. This internal playlist will go into my spiritual earthquake kit.

The other thing that started me thinking about this was a notice from the synod reminding us that we have a disaster response coordinator who will work to keep lines of communication open through short-wave radio, mobile phones, text messaging, etc. Communication would also seem to be a spiritual necessity.  I know, this is necessary whether you’re religious or not, but in the event of a catastrophe, it will be crucial to stay connected to one’s spiritual community. So there are people who will go into my spiritual earthquake kit: my spiritual director, my best friend Ruth in Buffalo, as well as all the people in my congregation and friends from the interfaith center. Now this means that I have to keep those relationships and connections healthy, not just for the eventuality of a crisis, but it’ll sure be good to have them – and them to have me – when a crisis hits. We may have to use whatever communication resources will be available, but it will be important to keep as connected as we can for spiritual support.

And, of course, since it’s a spiritual kit, prayer should be on the list. But I must admit that here I run into a problem: prayer for what?  I mean, once you give up the idea of an interventionist God who chooses to save some but not others, it’s hard to ask for special consideration and protection, for God to wait until I’m off the bridge, and then let all the other drivers drop off. So I’m putting prayer in for sure. But instead of asking for protection, my prayers will be for wisdom in remembering what to do, courage in the face of danger, strength and fortitude to do what needs to be done, and for peace, even in the face of death.

I’m sure if and when ‘The Big One’ happens, I’ll still react by praying, “Oh, God, not now!”.  But I’ll have my spiritual earthquake kit to help me through. Besides, a violent shaking of the earth’s crust is not the only kind of earthquake we can experience; there are many upheavals in our lives.  Our spiritual earthquake kits will be of use to us in many ways.

So what about you? Are you ready for ‘The Big One’ – whatever that might mean? What do you need to put in your spiritual earthquake kit?  What other ideas do you have to share?


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