Today marks a somber anniversary for our country. I have reflected this morning on all the painful memories this day stirs each year in the hearts of so many people.
It marks the anniversary of watching domestic airliners plunge into buildings holding thousands of people.
It marks the anniversary of standing around televisions with friends and strangers confused and scared.
It marks the anniversary of a day filled with nervous anxiety, wondering when news of a new hit target would emerge.
It marks the anniversary of brave men and women inspiring a nation as they rushed into the carnage while so many others fled.
It marks the anniversary of incredibly brave leadership on the part of New York’s mayor and a remarkable man named Todd Beamer.
It marks the anniversary of the day when Al Qaeda became a household name.
It marks the anniversary of a period of time of eerily clear skies as domestic flights were grounded everywhere.
It marks the anniversary of incredibly disturbing images of people jumping from the smoke engulfed floors high atop the towers.
It marks the anniversary of seeing the horrific looks on the faces of those who fled the tsunami of smoke and debris in the streets of an American city.
It marks the anniversary of the shocking images of two well-known buildings crashing to the ground, wondering how many people just took their last breath on earth.
It marks the anniversary for so many of hours of excruciating anxiety as they tried to reach loved ones who were in the area at the time of the attacks.
It marks the anniversary of a sudden surge in national pride and American flags flying everywhere one looked.
All of this is true, and I tend to meditate on every one of those thoughts every year on this day. However, today I have been meditating on another aspect of this tragic day in 2001. Today marks the anniversary of a short period of time when God became useful to just about everyone. People flocked to churches for prayer vigils and memorial services. News personalities actually called people to pray and people seemed to look to God for answers. People turned to God for comfort and understanding. People turned to God to help them feel safe and secure. But far more quickly than the patriotic spirit would eventually fall back to normal, people once again turned away from God and fell back into their lives, content to continue on without him.
I am reminded this morning about the type of relationship God desires to have with us. His intention is not to become useful to us when we determine that we need him to comfort us and provide us with understanding. Instead, he became flesh for us in order to defeat the very root of every evil issue we face. He did that not to offer us a temporary reprieve from difficult circumstances, but to completely redeem us from the very evil that resides within us. He did that not to provide a certain level of understanding, but to stand as a substitute for us so that we might be reconciled with him and know him for eternity.
The memory of 9/11 serves as one of the most sobering reminders of the reality of the world in which we live. As this day conjures up disturbing images of that tragedy, they help to tell the true story of a world that is fallen and in need of restoration. The Scriptures remind us that Jesus is returning, and with him he will bring the restoration for which all of creation groans. That is the hope that gets us through even the worst tragedy in the meantime.
I am saddened as I am made painfully aware of so many who sought after God, even for a brief time, in the moments and days following the tragedy that took place on the morning of September 11, 2001. They sought, but they did not find. They returned to the idols of their lives that can never provide their greatest need. Perhaps this is the greatest tragedy of that terrible time in our nation’s history. I am hopeful, however, knowing that God is still in control and at work. I continue to pray for a lasting revival and time of spiritual awakening for our nation in which people turn to God on his terms, and not their own.