Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 Reflections

As I do every year on 9/11, I try to spend the day in silence and prayer. That's hard these days, but I try. I try and remember where I was that day, what was happening and what I was feeling. I also think about who I am today in comparison to who I was 15 years ago. In many ways I'm the same person, but in many ways I'm very different. I think 9/11 was somewhat of a turning point for me in my spiritual life because it caused me to look at the world differently. It made me realize that even though our world is full of unimaginable evil, it is also overwhelmingly bursting with good, if we just choose to see the good that exists. In order to do that, we have to start with ourselves and look at our world from the inside out. And we have to be willing to see the world through God's perspective and not man's. I don't want to hate anymore. I don't want to be angry with the injustice, hatred and hypocrisy that I see around me anymore. And I want to love my enemies; personal and global.  

No doubt, the atrocities of 9/11 were the most horrific that most of us have ever witnessed and God willing, ever will again in our lifetime. Watching the news coverage from that day still causes my heart to race, my throat to tighten up and my eyes to well up as I watch in helpless disbelief. It sickens me that we live in a world where such disregard for human life can be magnified on such a tremendous scale. And as I mourn for those who lost their lives, and the people that still deal with the scars of that day, I can't help but contemplate how it is that I should react in the face of such blatant evil.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-44 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Those are not easy words to read when remembering 9/11, are they? Paul repeats this idea in Romans 12:14 when he says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." This is not a concept that comes naturally to us when we see the images of innocent Americans leaping 1300 feet to their death, rather than burning alive. They aren't exactly the sentiments we feel when watching the Twin Towers crumble to the ground. These words from the New Testament don't instantly fill us with feelings of compassion and love, causing us to break out in prayer for those who would like nothing more than to see the events of 9/11 repeated again and again all across the world. But there they are. In black and white. In every Bible that sits on our desks or bookshelves. We hear them over and over, read them time and time again, and yet the truth remains exactly the same as they did when Christ spoke them over 2000 years ago. And the question still remains, "How are we going to respond?"    

This morning I checked out social media for just a few minutes to read what was being said in remembrance of 9/11, hoping to hear some encouraging words of unity. At a time when our country seems to be more divided than ever, one would hope that at least for today, we might be able to let go of our differences. But within seconds, I began to read the most angry, hate filled words that I have seen in a long time being directed at Muslims and our current administration. I sat here and wondered to myself just how this kind of hatred toward an enemy can still exist after 15 years. Sure, the pain still exists. We still mourn those who were lost and are sickened by the evil that was carried out against America. I'm the first one to admit; the pain is still very real to me. But to harbor hatred in such a fresh and passionate fervor is beyond my comprehension.  

After breakfast at one of our favorite eateries, I decided to go for a walk at a local nature preserve. I just spent the time praying, thinking and listening to the sounds around me. I decided to explore for a while, and hiked out into the brush. When I came back to the main path and cleared a small hill, I startled a small doe causing her to freeze instantly. As she stared me down, I froze as well and waited to see what she would do. I wanted her to know that I wasn't a threat so I showed her my hands. As ridiculous as it might sound, I even waved at her, hoping that she would remain calm enough for me to watch her for a while. Man, she was beautiful!  

Not only did she remain, but amazingly she began to walk toward me. Just a few steps at first. Then a few more. She would stop for a few seconds, eating grass and checking out other sounds on her right and left. Before I knew it, she was only about 10 feet away from me. I was amazed at how calm she was in being so close to me. Just her and I, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze that surrounded us. It was a holy moment and I thanked God for the blessing of being there. And in that moment, I found myself thinking of barriers and how easy it is to break them down. For all practical purposes, I was this doe's enemy. I mean, we all remember Bambi, right? But something bigger was going on with this animal. She remained calm. She wasn't afraid. For whatever reason, she trusted me for that moment and didn't run off until I got lazy and tried to sit down.  

I wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to trust one another more often. Regardless of how much evil we might be capable of inflicting on one another, if we take the first step and show love to our enemy, we might be surprised at their reaction and how willing they are to try as well. When you stop and think about it, love is really the only solution we have towards peace. I wonder what it would be like to be patriotic, but humble and loving as well. I wonder what it would be like to rise above evil and see life as precious and fragile, not only for ourselves, but each person in this world that God created. And when we do this, we might see more glimpses of what the Kingdom of God is like and the way our world was supposed to be in the first place.