When You Can’t Forget, Choose to Remember
On September 11, 2001 the city we love experienced the most horrific of tragedies. Today on September 11, 2015 some fourteen years later our remembrances of that day and its impact on all of us in general and so many of us in very specific ways continues. I wish I could tell you I have chosen to remember but in reality I can never forget.
I will always remember my wife calling me and telling me our oldest daughter, on her way to school, had called thinking she saw a fire at the World Trade Center. Until I leave this planet I suspect I will always have the image of the planes hitting the towers (I saw the second live on television), the images of the people running from the towers and the face of then Mayor Rudolf Guilani at a news conference as he announced the loss of over 300 firefighters (82 from Staten Island). I can’t forget going to the local school and the look on the Vice Principals face as we strategized about how we would provide for the children whose parents couldn’t get home or whose parents would never come home. I can’t forget being pulled aside by a teacher as I picked up my daughter from her school across the harbor from the towers and praying. We prayed so intensely and our voices quaked. I can’t forget driving to the tip of our Island and looking to where the towers once stood and seeing only a huge cloud of smoke and dust. I can’t forget calling everyone in our church that evening to see who was and wasn’t accounted for.
There are so many more things about 9/11 I just can’t forget and probably neither can you. I can’t forget the heroes, the firefighters, the cops, the EMS and the everyday citizens who chose to run into the towers or stay with someone in the towers. So many paid the ultimate price trying to rescue their fellowman. These are amazing people. I can’t forget them and I can’t forget the victims, the people who went to work and never came home. To this day thoughts of September 11th can be overwhelming.
Because I can’t forget 9/11 I must choose to remember some very simple truths from God and His Word. As a Christ follower never forgetting the tragedy is not enough. On this anniversary of this infamous day let me encourage you as well as myself to choose to remember the following life altering truths:
First, we must never forget that we have a God who is big enough, He is our greatest source of help. We can say with the Psalmist “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:1-3) The pain, the suffering, the terror caused by 9/11 was great but our God is greater. He is big enough no matter the crisis.
Secondly, we must never forget that we live East of Eden, our world is really really broken. Messed up people on a messed up planet do messed up things, sometimes horrific messed up things. Jesus reminds us how bad we can be when He states “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-23). The simplest answer to the question of “how could this happen” is that we are so messed up.
Thirdly, we must never forget that we see through a glass darkly, there is much we just can’t understand. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12a). I will not be able, this side of heaven, to understand why a loving God would not stop an event like 9-11. I can come up with a fancy theory but honestly I just don’t fully understand. I find some solace in the words of Romans 11:33 where it says “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
Fourthly, we must never forget that we can’t expect time to heal all wounds, only eternity can and will. They say time heals all wounds but God never says that it does. “They” say that it does. We can be sure that Our Eternal God alone is able to meet out eternal justice and He will. Revelation 20:11-12 reminds us “ Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
Beyond that, we know that Our Eternal God alone will bring wholeness to the hearts of His children. Again from Revelation we read “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Revelation 21:4). We can be sure based on the promises of God that the suffering of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
Finally, we must chose to embrace faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. Choosing doubt, despair and hate is relatively easy. It’s the natural thing to do. I need to continually choose faith because it enables me to please God. Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. I need to choose hope because it will enable me to persevere. Paul goes as far as calling it the “perseverance of hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). I need to choose love because it will motivate me and you in all that we do. Note the greatest commandments as quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22. There Jesus said “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Matthew 22:37-39).
It has been fourteen years and I can’t forget so I must choose to remember and so must you.
Pastor Dave Watson