12 September 2006

September 12th--A New Reality

I resisted the temptation to post an entry yesterday on 09/11. This weekend, I read someone's suggestion that 09/11 should be made a national holiday. While I understand the movtivation, I hate the thought of 09/11 mattress sales, "What are you doing for the September 11th weekend?" questions, or any of the other things that we do on what should be somber holidays like Memorial Day. There's something appropriate about having 09/11 hang over the normality of our daily routine--much as it did on that day and the ones that followed.
09/12/01 was a day radically different than 09/10/01. 09/11 was like a giant blade that slashed a jagged tear through reality--creating two very different disconnected realities. Suddenly, in one morning, we knew we were vulnerable. Their problems were not their problems alone, but could be our problems as well. We realized that life is precarious and fleeting. We faced the fact that there are people who hate us around the world. We acknowledged fanaticism that drives a person to kill in the name of their cause or God. We looked at everyday situations and objects with a new sense of their awful potential (don't you always now look at low-flying loud planes with a new sense of "oh no, what if..."). We contemplated the horrific possibility that at any time, in any place, thousands of people could suddenly die in the flames and smoke and motion of mindless carnage.
I spent time yesterday listening, watching, talking to family about what happened on that day. Cami and I had just moved here from Dallas. I was in my second week of work as WCC's Associate Pastor. Once we heard about the unfolding events, I sat at Pastor Wilson's house with Paul Corp, the Youth Pastor, and tried to accept what I was seeing. It strikes me that I still haven't been able to do that. The more times I watch the video or hear the stories, the less real and harder to believe it becomes.
When I try to "bottom-line" that day for me, here's what I come up with: 09/11 cut a deep tear in me between what I think and what I feel--the two inner realities we all live with. I think that most Muslims are not radical jihadists, yet I feel rage at Islam for what it has yielded. I think that this kind of vulnerability was always with us, but feel that it's now a part of life in a bigger more awful way. I think that life goes on in the face of tragedies like this, but feel that my life will never quite get past that day. I think that more people have died in other terrible plagues, conflicts, and cataclysms, but feel that this was was terrible in a way that defies mere numerical comparison. Ultimately, I think that God is sovereign and that our trust in Him is warranted by the evidence of our living, yet I feel that 09/11 is "exhibit A" for a world out of His control and filled with evidence that trust in Him is not always based on rational calculation.
For me, 09/11 represents the dividing line between two realities--the old and the new; it is the crack between much of the divide between what I think and feel. There are scriptures I could quote that speak to this...
"On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: " 'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?" (Acts 4:23-25 NIV)
there are stories that offer guidance to those who live in similar plots...
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
(Lk. 13:1-9 NIV)
and there are prayers that cry-out of a common place of grief and pleas for help..
"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah." (Ps. 61:2-4 NIV)
But, in the end, there is a choice. On 09/12--both the first one when no planes flew in the sky and the smoke still ascended into the sky from Ground Zero and this one when planes fill the skies and smoke still ascends from bombings and firefights in Afghanistan and Iraq--I choose to live by what I think rather than by what I feel. 09/11 reminds me with awful gravity that everyday boils down to a choice about what we live for, how we express that, what we hold dear. It is a perfect example of living caught in between two realities and choosing to live one of them even though trapped in the other (much like what it is to live as a follower of Jesus in this time). I live as a Christian trapped in a fallen world but seeking to live the reality of the world to come. I live on 09/12 as someone trapped in a world that is hate-filled, violent, and sadly deadly but seeking to live 09/10 normality as a son, husband, and father. For that awareness of the choice I make between these realities, I can give thanks on 09/12 and all the days that follow. I choose to do that, though it's not what I feel.

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