Forgetting history shouldn’t be an option

December 7, 1941. What does that date mean to you? I wasn’t around yet. Neither were my parents, but something very important happened that day.

April 19, 1995. How about that one? I was just a little kid, but I remember being aware at that time. But still, I’m afraid if you asked me if something significant happened that day, I wouldn’t know.

October 12, 2000. The same is true. This day is two days after my mom’s birthday and three days before mine, so that’s really all October 12 means to me.

How about September 11, 2001? I’d honestly hope that this date means a little something more than the others. We remember September 11 for the nearly 3,000 innocent lives that were taken by the terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

So what about those other dates? October 12, not even a year before the attacks in New York, 17 sailors were killed and 39 were injured in a suicide bombing against the U.S.S. Cole.

And April 19, 1995? The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, and 168 people died, including 19 children under the age of 6.

December 7, 1941 was the attack on Pearl Harbor, where 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 were wounded.

I would never have guessed it in 2001, but in 2014, I’m afraid people are beginning to forget September 11. How could we forget something so awful in only 13 years?

Realize that someone who was 8 when the Twin Towers fell would be 21 now. So in one way it’s understandable how they could forget because they didn’t really know to begin with. But it isn’t them I’m worried about. It’s people like me, who were old enough on September 11 to know what was happening and who have forgotten anyway.

It’s healthy to let go of the hurts from the past, yes, but is it wise to forget what happened altogether? Downplaying the seriousness of it, changing the subject to something less offensive, walking on eggshells so as not to offend someone has a place. Sure. When you’re talking to children, you want to make sure you keep the topic age appropriate. But how many of us have refused to face the real issues in our lives because we don’t want to commit to a course of action that might make us uncomfortable?

Do we honestly think forgetting the damage will teach anyone a lesson? Do we think sweeping the truth of the past under a rug will help us learn how to handle the troubles of the future?

Am American flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York, September 11,

Am American flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York, September 11,

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:11.

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, is writing here about something that happened in the Old Testament. If you don’t know, the Bible is divided into two sections, the Old and the New. The word testament isn’t exactly the best. It might be better called the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant deals mainly with how to live before Jesus came. The New Covenant deals with how to live after He came, waiting for Him to come again. But the New doesn’t replace the Old. They’re both the story of Jesus and the story of redemption and grace God extends to His creation. We need both covenants.

The stories of how people lived, how people failed, how people triumphed in the Old Testament are there to help us know what God expects of us now.

It’s amazing to me many times because the Old Testament has horrible stories of violence and cruelty scattered throughout its pages. The Old Testament describes some of the worst things in human history. And the people involved in some of those terrible things were followers of God.

What used to concern me was the fact that even though God says He forgives people, the Bible still takes their stories and showcases their wrongs to everyone.

Nothing can change the fact that David had an adulterous affair and had the woman’s husband murdered. Nothing can change the fact that Moses murdered someone and that his pride prevented him from reaching the Promised Land. Noah was a drunk, and Samson? Dude, let’s not even talk about him.

Why does God tell us those stories if He’s promised to not remember our sins?

If you asked any of those people what their opinion on this would be, I can pretty much tell you exactly what they would say. They wouldn’t deny what they’d done. And they wouldn’t mind that their stories are written down for all to see because they’re true, and their story isn’t about them anyway. Their stories are about God’s grace.

God does forgive. Fully. Completely. And that’s how we’re supposed to live too. We shouldn’t hold on to the past. We shouldn’t cling to our regrets. But it doesn’t change the fact that the past happened, and forgetting that it happened is dangerous.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that the tragedies of our past should be forgotten because they offend people or because they make us uncomfortable. History is there for us to learn from it, whether it’s our own personal history or the history of a religion or of a country.

December 7. April 19. October 12. September 11. And all the other dates of all the other tragedies. Don’t ever forget what those dates cost us.

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


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.