On January 12, 2023, devastating tornadoes tore through the state of Georgia. According to the report at Weather.gov, Griffin and Spalding County were impacted by two EF2 tornadoes, one EF3 tornado, and one EF1 tornado. Over 500 homes were deemed “uninhabitable” as a result of falling trees, downed power lines, and structural damage from the high winds. Our town looked like a war zone.

In the days and weeks following the storms, it was a beautiful sight to see our town come together to serve the most affected. Brothers and sisters in Christ disregarded divisions in theology and denomination to band together and meet the needs of “the least of these” among us. Countless volunteers came in to help with cleanup from large non-profit organizations to churches to individuals who just showed up to help. We even received video messages from as far away as Uganda encouraging and praying our congregation and community. To all those who stood with us during that time, we say, “Thank you.”

As we approached the season of Lent, we decided to let the current circumstances of our community guide our observance for this year. Instead of erecting the three beautiful, symmetrical, decorated crosses on the front lawn of FBC Griffin, we opted for a single cross made from debris collected during the storm. Connected to the split tree trunk on the base, we attached splintered siding, mangled gutters, bent steel, door frames, power lines, shattered PVC pipes, and twisted sheet metal. Needless to say, it looks a bit different than usual.

The jarring scene is a reminder of the ways that we often sanitize the cross of Christ. We forget that the cross of Christ was a monument to violent devastation. Yet, our cross is also a reminder of the hope that we have in Griffin this season, for the story of Easter is a story of life rising out of the devastation of death. It is a story of hope springing up in unexpected places.

The same day that we constructed our cross, a church member drove by the church around sunset. The juxtaposition of debris against the beautiful skyline caused her to pull the car over and snap a picture (see below). She posted it online with these song lyrics from Michael Gungor: “You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust.”

As we travel through Lent, may we find ourselves dwelling on redemption that comes from ruin. May we anticipate refreshment after being parched, just as Jesus suffered 40 days in the desert. From the agony of a terrible cross, Jesus finished the work to bring about our redemption. Let us look to the heavens where we know Jesus ascended to take his place at God’s side, and let us pray in the power of the Holy Spirit for renewal in our own lives, in our city, and in our world. Amen.

Photo credit: Alison Kirkland

Photo credit: Lori Welborn

Photo credit: Lori Welborn

Photo credit: Lori Welborn