September 10th always brings a pause doesn’t it? Just a quiet moment when we remember what was, and how things have changed, and how crazy the world has become. It is a precursor to the images that will flood our screens and newspapers on the anniversary of 9/11. Tomorrow we will honor those who survived, and memorialize those who didn’t. We will remember the stories, told hundreds of times by now, of the calls, the chaos, and the stunned shock of a nation. We will grapple with the hard questions and realize that the world is not as safe as we had once thought it was.
But today…today is the calm before the storm of grief and heartache. Today we can begin to reflect on history, while being present in the now of life. Yet, somehow, it seems to me that lately we are forgetting this present moment. All faces are on the events around the world, and if you look into the eyes of people around you, you will see it. Fear. Fear of the future. Fear of what will be. Fear of what could happen. Fear of what we could lose. Fear of pain. Fear of a world turned upside down.
I don’t know about you, but I have had to put my fingers in my ears to block out the voices of fear which have gained momentum over the past months. I have had to sing lalalalala…so as not to hear the doomsayers. Some would call me ignorant for doing so. Don’t you know you have to keep up with world events? Don’t you know the sky is falling? My answer is yes. I know. I am not blind. Evil has turned up the volume. Yet, even though there is much turmoil in the world, I choose not to dwell there. I cannot find anything beneficial for me, or my country to watch or listen to people panic in fear. Nor is it essential for me to see people bash one another in anger. I see what I need to see, and I ponder what these things mean in my heart, but I refuse to believe that somehow God does not know what is happening. That he is unaware that people are in dire circumstances, or that there are threats to our way of life popping up like popcorn all around us. I believe instead that he is well aware, and his voice is whispering of a change. We are so worried about the possibilities of the future we are missing something. He is saying, “Don’t miss what I am doing…here and now.” But we are…we are missing it, because our eyes are on the circumstances, and our hearts are full of fear.
It is not unlike how things were before 9/11…remember? We were so busy, we missed the everyday details. We had forgotten that the small things really are the big things. We didn’t remember that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, or that every day is a chance to embrace life without reserve. On that one day, all of that changed. We hugged our kids a bit tighter. We were kinder to our co-workers. We pulled our families close. We embraced those who had lost, and uplifted those who survived. We were gentle with one another. It was the unity of common pain. We were violated…all of us…together. Therefore, we stood together…for each other…with each other. We cried together. We prayed together. Out of a horrible tragedy came great compassion for one another, and it was beautiful. So much so that we still tell the stories…every year.
But over time, we have made it less about encircling with love, and more about inciting with fear. Our talk has become all retaliation and self-defense. Vengeance and vindication. From politics, to religion, to daily commutes, it seems we are on guard and everyone is suspect. This kind of behavior is the fruit of fearfulness. Trust is in short supply. Instead of believing in good things, we focus on bad. Tunnel vision. You say, “But there are no good things! Everything is falling apart!” I say, You are wrong. There are kind people. There is beauty. There is art, music, and nature. There is compassion. We have clean water. We have electricity. We have friendship. There is shelter, and food, and dependable ways to move from place to place. There is entertainment…galore. (Maybe a bit more than we need.) Even in the hard times we have it better than most of the world.
We are free to worship. We are free to speak. We are free to gather. Some would say those freedoms are being taken from us. Really? Tell the Christians in Iraq how little freedom you have. Tell the Africans dying of Ebola how terrible your health care is. Tell the kids who walk miles to obtain clean water how bad things are here. Pardon me, but we are spoiled, and spoiled people do not often seek God. It is the broken that seek him in their need. Revival starts with that recognition. Not our need to be right. Not our need to be the best. Our need to acknowledge we do not know it all, in fact, we know very little. Our need that without God, we are nothing. Without that there can be no restoration. No reconciliation. Only fear.
But God whispers to us, “Watch what I am doing! Do not be afraid…my perfect love casts out fear. I am doing it now!! Do you not perceive it? You need only to open your eyes and SEE.” When I do…I SEE his hand all around us. He heals. He restores. He uplifts. He delivers. He sets captives free. He comforts the ones who mourn. He gives beauty for ashes. He proclaims good news. He binds broken hearts.
Here on September 10th, I pray that the anniversary of September 11th will remind us of our need. That when we see the images…that unity will rise up as our divisions fall away. That we will SEE what God is doing even now…in our midst. That we would see that as the darkness gets darker that the light is getting brighter. That we will lift our heads to his glorious face and that we would not require more pain in order to do so. That we would willingly humble ourselves on our knees, and lift our hands to heaven. I pray for freedom from fear and the ability to trust…and that we would make the decision to trust again. I pray for mercy and that we will remember. Amen.