Fifteen years ago on a Tuesday morning I had forgotten something on my way to the office and doubled back to get it. My phone was ringing and I heard a friend on the other end of the line tell me that someone had flown a plane into one of the world trade center towers. At first I thought maybe it had been an accident. So I turn on the T.V. and watch as the story unfolds. Moments later we all saw a live, a second plane square up and flown right into the second tower. It was horrible and it was raw.
With other similar acts of terror in the past as a nation we perhaps only saw the aftermath, or security camera footage, or edited images after the fact. This was different, we saw it and it was an intentional act, seeing it play out as we sat in horror, learning that another attack struck our Pentagon, and then there is the brave passengers that brought down the plane in the Pennsylvania field, sacrificing themselves to save many more.
The moments were intense as our President was in one of the Air Force One planes with military escort. We were not sure where he was once he left the school where he was visiting. The date was September 11, 2001. The symbolism of our emergency service we are to dial 911.
In the next few moments I was able to pull myself away from the T.V. and went out to the church I was serving. I sat on the front steps looking across the calm blue sky in front of me, knowing that we who had experienced that day would be different because of it. Seeing the peace in front of me, while the horror was going on in other places in our country, and because of the scale and ongoing nature of the events of that day, I was for once very uncertain of much.
In the days that followed there was a heightened sense of alarm. There was shock, numbness, depression, as people also saw uninterrupted hours of this on the news. There came a heightened sense or need for people to return to the Lord or at least return to the church. There was also a different sentiment that comes from grief…anger. People began to lash out at others at others that looked different. People would talk of killing other from that region. People were hurt and scared, and rather than dealing with it they lashed out, many did so in the name of nationalism. The language of nationalism for many became hate or revenge.
These terrorists believed their faith was worth dying for and so do I, where we are different is the killing of others. In the days, months, and years that have followed there have been many mistakes, in war, policy, and decency in the name of this event. Crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. More true is that it brings out what is most central in our lives, and the core of our hearts. When squeezed to do fruits of bitterness and hate rule, or do the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
We are now 15 years removed from this event, what is our language of nationalism? What is our response as followers of Christ?
This is a reminder that God is still on the throne and in control. We may feel out of control but that doesn’t mean God is not.
Most of us over a certain age know what we were doing on September 11, 2001. It was a very visible and raw tragedy. Because of the delay between multiple planes we saw a lot that day. Much like the Kennedy assassination a generation before.
We are a people hurting, confused, depressed, and angry. All of these emotions are part of grief but none are healthy if we dwell in them too long. Our national language had become one of resilience, determination, and revenge. Those who did this to us are going get what’s coming to them.
Language helps to create culture, so what culture was that creating in our country? It was a heightened level of anxiety for a long time after that. It appears to me that in the light of this hurt and uncertainty anger and revenge became more prevalent. What language informs the Christian? God speaks a word to us about suffering, love, forgiveness, and trust.
As believers we put our mind and eyes on things above where God is seated on His throne and Christ at His right hand. No matter what is going on in the world today and we feel out of control…God is still in control.
We need to be people of thoughtful prayer and intentional action. In other words, are we people who react or respond? Reacting is a gut level, fight or flight, feels good in the moment type of thing. A response has thought and intention, engaging heart, mind, soul, and strength. Just like the “reaction” of many would have been to run away from those buildings but the “response” of men and women like our police and fire fighters was to run towards trouble to help others.
Our reactions don’t demonstrate control but helplessness. Our responses reveal our character. Don’t react, respond! Every person will experience difficult things and how we deal with them will say a lot about who we are and who we trust.
We must be full of Christ instead of full of ourselves to have the peace that passes all understanding. If you want to be uplifted don’t look around but look up. To be in Christ is to be intentional, and a response is intentional, a reaction is not. I am forgiving not because of myself, but because Christ forgave me.
It may not be right in the world, but it can be well with my soul. It may not be right in the world, but it can be well with soul. IT MAY NOT BE RIGHT IN THE WORLD, BUT IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
Here is a Response …
The Prayer of St. Francis
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”