Personal Reflections on 9/11
9/11. This day impacts me every year. It impacts all of us. It has been 13 years since the planes were flown into the towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It seems like yesterday that our security was ripped from us and we realized that we were not untouchable on our own soil. It seems like yesterday we lost over 3,000 of us in less than an hour. It brings me to tears every year. It is a day of reflection for me. It is the day that began the closing of one chapter of my life, preparing for the next.
I was living in Waynesboro, VA at the time on staff at a church. I had just come through a tough season. The battle had been challenging but I had overcome. But not without a cost. I was left with some war wounds…wounds that penetrated the deepest part of my soul.
The Tuesday morning of 9/11, the air was crisp and cool. The sky was pure blue, not a cloud to be seen. It was the perfect fall day. How something so evil could happen on such a beautiful day still amazes me.
I met one of my friends from the church at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway for morning prayer and coffee before work. We were sitting over looking the valley when a man came out of the camper that was parked at the overlook (which was kind of strange). He was all excited and flustered. He told us that a plane had flown into one of the towers in New York – that something big was happening.
My friend worked at a local radio station and knew she had to get to work right away. I rushed home and turned on the TV just as flight 175 crashed into the second tower. I sat on the couch and watched in disbelief at the drama unfolding before me.
The horror of seeing people jumping from the buildings, trying to escape the fire stays with me to this day.
I remember calling my dad in Ohio and one of my sisters at work and other family members and friends. I needed to make sure everyone was ok.
I didn’t go to the office that day. As I sat on the couch that Tuesday morning and afternoon, I knew life had changed — that the world had shifted and that something had shifted inside me. I felt like this chapter in my life was coming to an end. Within a week, I resigned from the church that I dearly loved. I resigned having no idea what was next for me. I knew that I would finish up at the end of October and go home for a couple of months to re-group. After that, I had no idea.
What I didn’t realize is that I needed time to heal from the wounds of the past year. I needed time to rest after a season of incredible stress and strain. Just because you win a battle does not mean there aren’t wounds.
After being gone for 9 years, I came home.
To the house my family had lived in since I was 4.
To my roots.
While I was re-grouping, Pastor Jim asked to meet with me. I remember sitting in the pre-school room, in chairs made for 2 year olds. It somehow seemed fitting. He asked me what I wanted to do, what my plans were. I had offers but I was tired. Bone-crushed, mind numbed, soul-drained tired. And I was enjoying spending time with Jesus because I wanted to, not because I had 3 sermons a week to prepare for.
“Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t come in writing in the sky or some emotional epiphany but it just seems right. In the book of Acts, the disciples sometimes made decisions simply because it “seemed” like the right decision. It seems right that you would come on staff here in Vermilion”
These words from Pastor Jim were water to my soul. I had had a lot of emotion over the past year. And I was tired of it. The church had a need for a Children’s Pastor and I could meet that need. I had a need for healing (though I didn’t know it at the time) and the church could meet that need. It seemed right. There was a large staff so I did not have a lot of responsibility to carry. I would have to work a job outside of the church which I desperately wanted to do. It seemed right.
9/11 brought me home.
To be with my brother his last two years of life before he passed away from cancer.
To take care of my dad at the end of his life.
To have both of them come to know and trust in Jesus at the end of their lives.
To perform the funerals of 14 family members in an 9 year period.
To pastor my family.
To watch my nieces and nephew grow up.
To witness and be a part of an amazing work that God is doing in and through our church.
To re-awaken dreams I have had since I first trusted Jesus at the age of 15.
To be a leader in the community that I grew up in and that I love dearly and pray for daily.
To a season of personal fruitfulness.
To become friends with my sisters as adults.
To work my way out of debt (so very close).
One of my favorite books that I have read in the past year is John Piper’s Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste It. In the book, he has a chapter on being more than a conqueror (from Romans 8). He says that a conqueror is someone who “strikes down his foe.” Someone who is more than a conqueror “makes his foe his slave.” (page 49) Being more than a conqueror is to use the very thing the enemy meant to defeat us with, destroy us with, and dishearten us with and turn it around to bring honor and glory to God – and hope and healing to people.
On 9-11 our enemies tried to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. They did not succeed. Passengers stood up and took on hijackers – saving countless lives. First responders ran into the burning, collapsing building to save people. In the midst of unspeakable evil, glimpses of goodness stood in stark contrast to the evil. Americans came together as one. We were more than conquerors. We used the very thing the enemy did to us to bring forth good.
There is an enemy of our soul that tries to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. I have a friend who just lost one of her new born twins. She could be bitter. And no one would blame her. But she has used this heartbreaking tragedy in life to bring honor and glory to God. And through it, she is bringing hope and healing to everyone she comes into contact with.
What I learned from 9/11, is that even the most awful things that happen in the world can work for good if we let it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” The good and the bad can be woven together and work for good if we allow God to do it.