Ten years ago today was my generations’ JFK moment – that moment we will always remember that in many ways will define my generation. We all remember where we were, what we felt, and what we thought as we watched something unspeakable unfold before our eyes.
Two weeks prior to that fateful September morning I spent a few days in NYC. Among a number of things, I made sure to stop by the World Trade Center. A two day trip to NYC is barely enough to do anything, so I didn’t have time to go inside, climb to the top, or any of the other things I had always wanted to do at the World Trade Center. But, I did make sure to stop by and see the iconic structures. I was struck by their magnitude. When I stood at the base of one of the towers and looked towards the heavens, the vantage point made the tower appear to never end – it truly went upwards “as far as the eye could see.”
Two weeks later, on an ordinary Tuesday morning, we all watched in amazement as two buildings and thousands of lives came tumbling to the ground. I will never forget sitting in front of a television completely speechless – there were not words to describe what we felt. Many of us were discovering feelings we didn’t even know we had.
That Saturday I was supposed to speak at a monthly worship service in the area. I had led worship and spoken there many times before, but in the days leading up to Saturday I had no idea what to say. At first I thought the service might be canceled. To my dismay, not only was it not canceled, but as so many turned towards God looking for answers in the weeks and months following, I knew there would be even more people there – desperately looking for hope in the hopelessness.
I remember so vividly searching Scripture and seeking God asking him what to do. I was a 20 year old kid in completely over my head. The days passed and I still had nothing to say. As the service started, I still had nothing at all to say. When the music started, I felt like a clock was ticking. Everyone was looking for an answer, an explanation, but I literally had nothing to say. I remember not singing a word that night but being on my knees begging the Lord to speak to me – to show me what we all needed to hear that night.
Literally moments before I was to be introduced as the speaker for the evening, I was reminded of Psalm 36:
1 I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
5 But Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!
My mind returned to the towers I had stood before a mere two weeks earlier. These buildings that I thought “reached to the heavens” had fallen down, but the Love of our God remained! In the midst of tragedy, we could have hope in the love and righteousness and justice of God. Our hope was not in steel and glass, but in the unfailing Love of God. We could find refuge in him.
Loss is real and tragedy hurts deeply. But, my prayer on this 10th anniversary of my generations’ “moment” is that we would not find our hope in what the terrorists thought they destroyed – our economy, our government, our military, our creativity. But instead that our lives would demonstrate that our hope is in something far greater – the everlasting, unending love of our God. In the end, we can declare with confidence – “WE WIN”