A lot of different people from a lot of different places have a lot of different opinions about my state. Some are good, some are not-so good, and some are simply indifferent towards us at all while claiming the "who cares" stance. A few months ago, in the wake of many changes across our country, I read many articles and Facebook statuses commenting on how happy the writers were to be "out of the south" because our lack of progression was "disgusting," "embarrassing," and "juvenile." I don't know much about how we rank in comparison to other states in a lot of things, but I'm aware of some of the ridicule we receive based on many of our values and beliefs. I've heard people and read stories that call us "rednecks," "fools," "country bumpkins," and "gun-toting morons" who "need to get with the times," and the range of emotions that come as a result of those statements aren't always neat and tidy. Sometimes I read something that literally makes me feel like I've got a fire burning in my stomach, and other times tears fill my eyes as I wonder how such cruel words could be spoken. I realize that my opinions don't match everyone else's opinions, and I am also aware that many of my opinions get brushed off as unimportant and irrelevant. That doesn't, however, stop me from having them, just as it doesn't stop anyone else from having theirs.
In the wake of tragedy, both preventable and unpreventable by man, southerners have once again revealed our lack of progression. We have not progressed past forgiveness in the midst of suffering. We have not progressed beyond caring for those who are in need, whether they be loved ones or total strangers. We have not progressed to the point of simply saying "You are in our thoughts and prayers" and going about our lives as if nothing happened, but have put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. We have backed up those thoughts and prayers with action, service, and sacrifice. Others who have been moved to compassion across the country have joined us in our efforts to restore what has been lost as well, and gratitude has been expressed by the recipients of that generosity. I recently read a post that beautifully explained the response of our state in this present trial: "The problem in SC is that our needs are changing by the minute because as soon as one is identified, it is met beyond measure. The problem in SC is that our generosity outweighs the greatest natural disaster our state has seen in quite a long time...perhaps ever." Yes, the flood waters are still receding. Yes, homes have been destroyed all over the Palmetto State, especially in the lower parts. Yes, it is going to take a long time to get things back to "normal." Yes, we are mourning over those whose lives ended in the wake of this tragedy. But are we without hope? Are we alone in our heartache and struggles? The answer is a resounding no to both of those questions.
People can say what they want about South Carolina, and I'm certain that they still will even after all of this, but I am proud to say this is where I was born and raised. I'm proud that when darkness tries to shake us and break us, the only thing it succeeds in is helping us shine brighter than before. Sure, the terrors may rattle us and cause us to cry out in fear and sorrow over the present situation, but our foundation is strong. We hold fast to hope, clinging to truth: that our weakness is simply an opportunity for the One who sustains us to be strength for us (2 Corinthians 12). You can't fake heart, you can't force people to care, and you can't make people love one another in purity. That's why I love my state. Instead of letting someone else deal with the mess, our state is being and sending missionaries to help those in need, and instead of trying to understand why this happened or what the future may hold, the people are doing what needs to be done moment by moment, and trusting that every need will be met. This disaster has created opportunities for growth that won't be recorded as progression, even though that's exactly what it is. Political progression is what the media habitually comments on and refers to, but the kind of progression that we are witnessing in the south is growth in humility, love, service, obedience, trust, and compassion. My unwavering opinion is that this is the kind of progression that matters most, and yet we are often chastised for having not "progressed" as quickly as the rest of our society has. We are commonly referred to as a stumbling block to moving forward as a country, and while I quickly admit and wholeheartedly agree that the south has not always gotten everything right, I have seen us rally around and support each other in ways that few others do. South Carolina may be just another state on a map to you, but to me it's a place where community means locking arms with each other, where even strangers are considered family, and where generosity doesn't just mean those who give the most money.
In the face of adversity and strife, South Carolina remains faithful and strong, secured by the roots of indivisibility that were planted so long ago. When one of us hurt we all hurt, and that's what love for and commitment to each other looks like. I pray that we never get so caught up in the never-ending game of getting ahead that we forget (or worse, choose not) to lend a helping hand to those in need, because only one of these matters in light of eternity. The first is rooted in a love for self, while the latter is rooted in a love for others.
South Carolina, God is being glorified in our efforts, and the whole world is seeing glimpses of His love. He is what makes us strong, our very present Help in time of need, and the Lamp that lights our way. Let's all shout with one voice, "Hallelujah!" to our great Promise Maker and Promise Keeper as we continue to wade through the waters, and let's not delay in helping in whatever way we are able - especially through our prayers.
"When you realize He sacrificed to give us life, you will start to say, "How can I sacrifice to give other people life?"