We Are Made New in the Fires of Adversity

I’m writing this on Sept. 11, following a church service that was both moving and hopeful. There was no sermon, simply a reading of the timeline and a bell tolling to mark the crash into the first tower, then the second tower, the Pentagon and in the Pennsylvania field, and to mark other events of that day. It was a wrenching reminder of when the world stood in slow motion. When we repeatedly saw the planes fly into the Twin Towers as the events were replayed countless times as if we had to see them over and over again to really believe such a thing could occur.

In the days and weeks leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I, like many of you, read the stories of survivors and family members of those who died. Most of the stories I read were not about hate or even sorrow, they were about celebrating life by doing something that gave meaning to the lives of lost loved ones. Foundations for helping others have been formed. Money to aid in the recovery from disasters in other places has been collected. Oral histories are being recorded.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was horrified by the events pouring out of every news outlet, but I drew comfort from Psalm 121:1-2. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

The stories from 9/11 are quiet remembrances touched with hope for a better tomorrow. They inspire the reader to introspection, thanksgiving and trust in the maker of all this is now, ever has been or ever will be.

I wondered on that day ten years ago, as I wonder today, if Jesus wept (John 11:35) when he watched the events unfurl, out of control from the moment the planes took off. The compassionate one wept when he learned his friend had been buried, but I wonder if he wept not for the one in the tomb, but for all those left behind, for those who asked, “Why?” It comforts me to know Jesus weeps with and for us when we are in the deepest of pain.

Many took comfort in the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing …”

The headline in one European country read, “We Are All Americans Today.” For a heartbeat in time the tragedy had us reaching out to each other. I know, you will say, “Not the ones who were laughing in the streets!” Yes, I saw those pictures, but I also saw the world as it could be; a world where we look at one another and see people not unlike us – people with families, hopes and dreams.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake…”

There was no feeling of rest in those first days, no green pastures, but have you seen the memorial being created in the Pennsylvania field where one of the planes crashed? It is a reminder of the rebirth that comes after a firestorm.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

On 9/11 people who hadn’t been in a church in decades flocked to houses of worship to try and make sense of the senseless, and took comfort from one another and from the words of strength found on pages of text written centuries ago.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The triumph of hope will not allow us to dwell on the past but look to the future. We take comfort from the words of scripture, the hug of a friend, the smiles of our children and the companionship of our partners in life.

We are not undone by adversity; we are made new. Just as the memorial in New York has replaced the devastation at “Ground Zero,” hope has replaced despair.

(Bible verses are from the New International Version)

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