I remember where I was, what I was doing, and the emotions I felt when Bill called with the news of the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Towers. As we talked, the second plane hit.
At that moment I, and I’m guessing you too, knew that this wasn’t just an accident.
I was so glad that all of my children were with me. I wanted Bill home. I really wanted Bill home when the third plane hit the Pentagon.
Only two hours south of D.C., I was mentally preparing to grab what we could and head to NC. He came home, and we stayed, trying to piece it all together.
That night we gathered with friends from our church to process and pray, to find comfort and confidence in God and with each other.
I have friends who lost faith that day. “How could a good God, a loving God allow such things to happen? Either God is not good enough, or he’s not powerful enough. Either way, he’s not a God I can worship.”
While I understand this reasoning, I didn’t lose faith that day, or in the days after.
I heard stories of men and women motivated by such care, such concern, such courage that they gave up their lives for others that day. I saw people shining forth pictures of Jesus.
William Rodriguez, the maintenance worker with the master key to the North Tower who led firefighters up the stairwell unlocking doors as he went enabling hundreds of people to be rescued.
Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira, who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 floors.
And, of course Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, Linda Gronlund, Todd Beamer and Sandra Bradshaw who thwarted the hijackers’ plans.
Some of these people acted heroically because of their faith in Jesus. Some of them acted heroically because of what I believe is resident in every person, the image of God.
Every person is made in the image of God, to bear his likeness into the world. The firefighters who went into the burning building did exactly what Jesus did when he came into this burning building of a world.
William Rodriguez unlocked doors setting captives free. just like Jesus. Michael Benfante and John Cerquiera gave a helpess woman mobility, just like Jesus did for the man by the pool. And just like Jesus gave up his life for the sake of saving lives, so did Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, Linda Gronlund, Todd Beamer, and Sandra Bradshaw.
Whether or not they intended to be like Jesus, when I heard their stories, I saw Christlike action. I didn’t lose faith that day. Rather my faith increased and my boldness to live out my faith increased.
As I think back on 9/11, my throat still closes as I remember the fear I felt, and the longing I had for Bill to get home, and the thankfulness that all of my children were right there with me. My eyes still pool at the thought of children who lost their moms and dads, parents who lost their children, friends who lost dear, dear friends.
And I’m still inspired by Vincent Ardolino who watched the burning buildings on TV, turned to his wife and said, “I gotta go do something.” Vincent kissed his wife good-bye and along with hundreds of other charter boat captains evacuated more than 500,000 people off of Manhattan Island that day.
If your faith was rocked by 9/11, I understand. How can a loving God allow such tragedy, such horror in the world? That night as I gathered with friends, one man took us all back to a childhood prayer. “God is great, and God is good.” I believe this.
John Piper quoting Jonathan Edwards, in Desiring God, helped me to believe this.
How can God be happy and decree calamity?
Consider that he has the capacity to view the world through two lenses.
Through the narrow one, he is grieved and angered at sin and pain.
Through the wide one he sees evil in relation to its eternal purposes.
Reality is like a mosaic, the parts may be ugly in themselves, but whole is beautiful.
Two lenses, through the narrow one he is grieved and angered at sin and pain. On 9/11, I see him saddened, so saddened as people had to make the horrific choice to jump to their death or face the inferno. I see him angry at the evil that drove people to intentionally turn planes into weapons. I see him proud of the heroes and grieved for the loved ones they left behind.
But I also see him confident that there will be a day when all is made right, confident that even 9/11 is part of a beautiful tapestry, a magnificent mosaic that displays his glory and will bring eternal joy both to God and to his people.
This narrow/wide lens doesn’t bring back mothers, and brothers, and fathers, and sisters, and friends. But it helps me to make sense of it, and better yet, trust that God has already made sense of it. And what the enemy intended for evil, God intends for good.
Where were you on 9/11? How did you process the day as it unfolded? How did reconcile, or did you reconcile your faith in God with the pain of this day, and its aftermath? Feel free to leave a comment, or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like.