American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Remember

Twelve years ago today, about this time actually, I was heading out to an early class. It was my first year at college, and I was 1,000 miles from home on my own, attending an uber-strict, conservative Christian school. Radios and televisions weren’t allowed, so I didn’t get the news about the attack in New York until my mom called me. We all knew it was a big deal when the school decided to allow the few televisions there to be turned to news stations so we could all stay aware of what was happening in the world outside the protective bubble of the campus.

I remember first thinking it had to be some kind of accident because how could it be an attack? But when it became obvious that it was deliberate, when everyone realized what was happening, I remember the shock and the cold horror I felt, and I remember it clearly enough that it could have been yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years. And if you talk to a freshman in college now, they probably won’t remember it at all. I think that’s what shocks me the most. I mean, the average freshman in college is going to know it happened, but they won’t remember it because they experienced it as small children.

It’s strange how tragedy can unite a nation. The US hadn’t been that together on anything probably since Pearl Harbor. But human memory is short. And twelve years later, as a nation we stand even more fractured and divided and lost than we ever were before, because even the people who have a responsibility to remember have forgotten. If I focus on that, I get discouraged. If I think about what could have happened in response to 911, I get sad. But being sad and discouraged isn’t why I want to remember 911.

American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Today’s verses are Psalm 121.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Tragedy comes in all shapes and sizes and God allows it into our lives for many reasons, the most obvious being that it’s the only way we will search for Him (Acts 17:27). Twelve years ago today, we were attacked and 3,000 people lost their lives. But during the attacks and after the attacks, God hadn’t gone anywhere. Yes, He pulled back His hand for a moment and allowed the attacks to happen. That’s His sovereign right, but don’t think for a moment it was something He wanted.

When the dust settled, people wanted answers. They wanted it all to make sense. So they started reaching out for Him, and some of them found Him and held on. 911 changed everyone. And even though we have changed and our country has changed and the world has changed in 12 years, God is still the same. He will still do what is necessary to draw people to Him because He’s better than the lives they would choose to live on their own. And after we crawl out of the dust of the ruins of our choices, He will be there to help us pick up the pieces.

That’s what I want to remember about 911. Yes, I want to remember the people who died. I want to remember the people who sacrificed, not only in New York City but afterward too. I want to remember how the country stood united in a time a darkness. But most of all I want to remember that God didn’t leave us to deal with the tragedy on our own. He was there the whole time.

No matter what tragedy or difficulty you’re facing in your life right now, it’s not too big for God. You can know there’s a reason for it. Maybe the only reason is that God wants you to reach out to Him. That’s between you and Him. But no matter what you choose, no matter where you are or where you’re going, God is big enough to go with you and He’s strong enough to help you through any challenge.

The tragedies in our lives are only meaningless if we forget their purpose. I remember 911. I remember being scared and alone, and I remember God becoming more real to me in those moments than He ever had before. And ever since that day, I know when I’m going through something difficult, He will be there right beside me to help me.

So don’t forget.

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Beach sunrise - Galveston, TX

Psalm 18

 

Beach sunrise - Galveston, TX

Beach sunrise – Galveston, TX

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds. Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals. He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were greatly confused. Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud. You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

I chased my enemies and caught them; I did not stop until they were conquered. I struck them down so they could not get up; they fell beneath my feet. You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet. You placed my foot on their necks. I have destroyed all who hated me. They called for help, but no one came to their rescue. They even cried to the Lord, but he refused to answer. I ground them as fine as dust in the wind. I swept them into the gutter like dirt. You gave me victory over my accusers. You appointed me ruler over nations; people I don’t even know now serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they submit; foreign nations cringe before me. They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds.

The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted! He is the God who pays back those who harm me; he subdues the nations under me and rescues me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.