When a man's ways please Jehovah, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
My eight year old grandson asked me about 911. He had been taught the history in school but he wanted to know if it could happen again. I had to be honest and tell him, yes, but that we shouldn’t worry about it. He asked about the atomic bomb and how deep one had to be underground to be safe. How do you answer that kind of question from a young child who has yet to live his life? Do you tell him the truth or protect him with a lie? I opted for the lie. Why give him nightmares?
For some reason there is a tension in the air that is soul-stifling. Strangers talk about current events as though there is no way to avoid another 911 or worse. This year, it seems that the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks has heightened meaning not only for those who remember but also those who have only heard about it in history class. But I have to admit that I feel about it now in the exact same way I felt then. I wrote about it and published it in my I Was Just Thinking column. Until now I have not desired to relive it but I think I ought to given the ever mounting despair.
For what it's worth.
Words would not come. Stunned and muddled, like the rest of the world, for several days following September 11, 2001, I found it difficult to even think in complete sentences. A friend suggested I write. But I could not find the words to write. For a devoted wordsmith, such as I, this was not unlike taping my mouth shut and tying my hands behind my back. Another friend suggested we all back off watching the 24-hour news coverage and try to occupy ourselves with other things so as not to allow the jaws of despair to swallow us up. But I couldn't stop watching; committed to keeping a vigil in case something worse might be about to befall us. And I believe I watched also because it allowed me to help shoulder, at least spiritually, the anguish of those caught in the middle of the nightmare. I could send up specific prayers if I monitored every thing that was happening minute by minute.
By Wednesday, much of the reporting was repetitious, but I watched anyway, hoping perhaps I'd be viewing when a miracle occurred like a living soul removed from the rubble. And then late Thursday evening, by way of filling in the long hours, there was a report of a group of architectural engineers who had begun testing the makeup of the thick powder that once was the World Trade Center. They were not surprised to find it was made of fine particles of glass, concrete, steel, gypsum, marble and granite. Two and one half million tons of strong, rigid material reduced to a fine powder in a matter of minutes.
But that was not the end of the report. What was most phenomenal was that, in spite of the bomb like force that pulverized the dense, solid materials that just hours before had formed two tall buildings, tons of paper floated out and had landed gently on the ground, unburned and intact.
Paper. Fragile, easy to tear, combustible, paper. That spoke to me, and gave me back my words with a whispered message.
We need to be like paper. Not steel. Not granite. Not concrete. If we are to survive against the fury of unspeakable evil, we need to be light enough to float. When unexpected forces blow against us, we need to be able to use the blast to propel us instead of being consumed by it. Unfortunately, this means we need to off load some weight. We need to rid ourselves of those especially heavy things like vengeance, selfishness, and hatred. We also need to shed pridefulness, meanness and lack of humility. To put it bluntly, we all just weigh too much and this extra, unnecessary tonnage makes us vulnerable to being crushed. It is when we are weighted down with sin and rebellion that God is more likely to break us.
This is a subtle lesson, for sure. But it isn't a stretch, by any means. It is no secret that the less we carry around inside, the lighter we are. The lighter we are, the easier it is for God to use us. When He can use us, the closer we are to Him and thus the more He carries for us. The more He carries, the lighter we are.
Nevertheless, there are those who are simply determined to carry large loads around with them. They see themselves as steel or granite. Invincible. They think they can only depend on their own ability to reason and their own might to defend themselves. It should be noted that today, in New York City, there is a lot of undamaged, simple paper resting lightly on the ruins of desecrated strength.
Frankly, I'd rather be paper. God can fold me and put me in His pocket.