|from Chick and Ruth's Deli|
A little proverb warns, “Never look back unless you want to go that way.” While I can see its wisdom – driving with my eyes on the rear-view mirror is a sure way to crash the car – I opened the spiral journal notebook I kept from June through December 2001.
I have kept journals since 1989. Back then, a friend, Nina Martin, urged me to try “journaling” as an exercise to keep in step with all God was doing. She was right. Not that any of my journals could propel me into a list of prominent diarists; they do show God’s faithfulness in the good times and those not so good times; they also show God’s forbearance in my faithlessness. Given that some have said we are in a war that may well continue through this century* – what do I see from back then, that helps today?
In the weeks leading up to that Tuesday in September of 2001, I was busy, worried, and distracted. Oh, I was definitely in my Martha - mode, deeply persuaded I could manage all that was on my plate – and confident of my own understanding of many things. I was rereading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, and the sermon that Sunday before 9/11/01 was taken from 2 John – the gist of it was love must-needs be informed by truth, and truth controlled by love.
Looking back, through the lens of thirteen years of wars with Islamic extremists, pursuing God is still hard, and I still need the Apostle John’s warning:
-- 5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. 9 Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
Why do I want to relive the days leading up to and after 9/11/01? I don’t want to forget. I want to remember how quickly life changes.
I never want to forget the people who died, the first responders, and the folks who lived through being attacked. And I don’t want to take for granted the ongoing suffering of our Armed Forces. If the memory of 9/11/01 is burned into my brain – images from television – what is in their heart and mind after multiple deployments into combat?
And I don’t want to forget the question a friend asked – You are religious, how could God have allowed this?
It still has something to do with the unfolding story of an infinite, personal God – a battle in the heavenlies, beyond our awareness, and one that is a manifestation of God’s last confrontation with a defeated foe, whose powers are real.
Nor, do I want to forget the resolve of Islamic radicals.
What has changed in these thirteen years, is that those who embrace Christ in the Middle East are being martyred for their faithfulness –as are thousand and thousands of other human beings who do not believe in the Islamic religion of an expanding and powerful force, feared to be international in its reach.
I actually thought in those early days of September I understood what suffering was like.
I did not.
It’s one thing to join the moving chorus of “Lift High the Cross” in the safety of a crowded sanctuary, it’s another to read that people have been crucified even this summer! The threat we face now gives a whole new meaning to Christ’s question, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29; Matthew 16:10; Luke 9:20)
And those who could commit such cruelty, are they the ones I am to love?
So I have prayed this: "Father, please turn these oppressors from evil, to You. Also, please destroy those of them who refuse to turn. May we who are blessed with freedom do our best to protect and defend their intended victims and provide them safe haven." (This Is a Test)
* Former Australian army chief Peter Leahy recently called this “the early stages of a war which is likely to last for the rest of the century. We must be ready to protect ourselves and, where necessary, act pre-emptively to neutralize the evident threat. Get ready for a long war.” (Michael Gerson, This War Will Look Familiar)