Two toddlers were screaming at me for more mac ’n cheese while I tried to keep an eye on CNN, which was streaming on my iPad. There’s a sea of tents set up on the east side of Central Park where the sick & dying will lay, exposed to the elements, but it’s the best we can do. Hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens have refrigerated trucks in the parking lot where they’re stashing human bodies. The big news is that the military repurposed a naval ship as a floating hospital that’s currently cruising up the Atlantic on its way to dock in the Hudson River, just off midtown Manhattan.
My city—this tough, gritty, resilient place where only the strong survive—is reeling. The news was calling New York the epicenter. Nurses and doctors who thought reporters were sugarcoating it took to social media to share the reality from critical care units through tears. Fear was gripping all of us. For the last 11 years, I’d known these streets as the place everyone wants to be. Overnight, these very streets became the place no one wants to be. The strong weren’t puffing out their chests in survival anymore. They were turning their backs & fleeing the scene as fast as they could.
When something’s happening you can’t make sense of, don’t ask, “Why God?” Ask, “Where?” “Where, God? Where are you in the midst of this? You’ve never been afraid of suffering, so surely you’re not retreating. Where are you in the chaos?” Surrounded by the chaotic clash of screaming toddlers and the eloquent reporters, I whispered a prayer, “Show me where, God.” The Miracle of Dunkirk An old story came to mind: The Miracle of Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan made a movie about it a couple years ago that got a lot of attention, but he skipped the best part. Here’s the big finish: The British Army was trapped by the Nazis, cornered in northern France. They were sitting ducks waiting to die. Then, a string of forces conspired to change the story. Low-hanging clouds moved in, Hitler picked a very strange time to give his troops a rest, giving British civilians operating fishing boats time to cross the channel & rescue the suffering by the handful. On the first day, over 7000 lives were saved, but by the time it was all said & done, it was 338,000 lives rescued by over 800 vessels.
What a story! But Nolan’s version started 24 hours too late. The day before the rescue, Winston Churchill gave a speech where he—arguably history’s most eloquent voice—ran out of words. In utter brokenness, at the end of himself, he called for a day of fasting and prayer across the nation. Without an act of God, the core of the British Army will lose their lives. The next day, every church was so full people had to stand outside to join in prayer, asking for mercy. That’s why, to this day, it’s known as “the miracle of Dunkirk.”
So, is that coincidence or the hand of God moving in response to the cries of his people? You decide.
Tyler Staton. Lead Pastor Trinity Grace Church Williamsburg