September 11, 2001 – Remember. Don’t Relive.

I still shudder when the sky is that shade of blue.  I remember every minute of that morning.  There was the rushing around getting my baby boy off to his third day of preschool while dealing with the morning sickness of being ten weeks pregnant.  There were the extra hugs, a few tears and a promise I’d be back at snack time.  Just fifteen minutes later, life slammed into a slow motion nightmare as I watched the hellish scenes unfold live on television.  Within an hour, I had picked up my son, who was thankfully oblivious.   I felt a growing sense of horror, realizing that we were at war and I was going to bring a new baby into this world in the midst of it.  There were moments when I wished I wasn’t pregnant, for fear of what this child’s life would be like.  And I mourned the almost certain loss of my first born’s innocence.

Now ten years have past.  I’ve seen so many articles and social media posts on “How The World Changed” and they bother me.  The world didn’t change.  We did.  We were so blissfully unaware.  We were safely snuggled between our shining seas and no harm could come to our shores.  That security was snatched away.  Now we look over our shoulders.  A forgotten backpack is cause for alarm.  Words like chatter and credible threat send shivers up our spines.

And for the many who have vowed to never forget and to never forgive, I offer this:  I will never ask you to forget that day.  How could we forget?  But forgive.  And know that we alone are not capable of forgiving, so hand those involved over to God.  Let him deal them.  And don’t tell him how to do it.  Holding on to our pain and anger changes nothing.  It merely perpetuates the terror and the hatred.  When that happens Evil wins. 

September 11, 2001 is a day no one will ever forget.  I remember where were I was, how I heard and the urgent phone calls to track down loved ones.  I watched for days as hope flickered and faded away.  I watched as the surge of comraderie and patriotism swept the nation.  I watched the grainy video of the hijackers passing through security.  I watched Colin Powell address the UN.  I watched our country go to war.  I watched the first anniversary as roses were laid at Ground Zero and the names were read out one by one by one and I cried as the bell rung for each one.  Then I turned off the television.

I made a decision on September 11, 2002 that reliving that horrible day was no way to honor those who died.  Their lives ended that day.  Mine did not.  My beautiful four-year old son was now a  big brother who loved his preschool, especially the PlayDoh table.  My new baby boy was nearly five months old.  He could smile and coo.  He could almost sit up in that silly, floppy, wobbly baby way.  I realized that sitting in front the television crying was not going to change a damn thing.

The way for me to honor those who died was to do what I could to change the world so that a day like this didn’t happen again.  I made a decision that the best way for me to do that is to raise my children with a different set of values than the ones society offers.  I will not promote greed.  I will not foster vengence. I will not tolerate intolerance.  I will not reinforce hatred, even when it is disguised as religion or patriotism.   I will teach my children to love, to accept, to seek understanding and commonality.  And I will teach them to forgive.  I cannot undo that awful day.  I can only do my best to change the world by sending forth two young men who understand that love will transform the world, one interaction at a time.

Is That A Threat?

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” ~ Steve Jobs

When I posted this quote on Facebook, I was a little surprised by one of the responses to it.  While I had read this as an encouragement, a challenge even, to break out of the box of other people’s expectations and follow your heart, a friend saw it differently.  He said that as Christians, we are ‘overseers of the flock’ and have a responsibility ‘to help others in their lives for God’.  But he really grabbed my attention by saying, ‘The scary part about that is it’s true.  Our life is limited.  We can die anytime.  But for us to die and have God say we wasted our time doing nothing or not doing enough and that we lived it for ourselves and not for God’s will is worse.’

Wow.  That sounds like a threatening God.  That sounds like a God who is keeping a tally, ticking off how many souls I’ve brought back to the fold.  That doesn’t sound quite right to me.  I don’t ever remember Jesus sitting down with the apostles for a quarterly performance review.  A good thing too because Peter would have been written up and probably fired.

Now I can’t completely dismiss what my friend says either.  He’s right that as Christians we do have responsibilities toward others.  But what exactly are those responsibilities?  Some Christians that I know believe that they must convert everyone they know, leading as many souls to God as possible.  They won’t take no for an answer.  They will argue and even bully people to believe as they do.  They do this in hopes that it will be ‘enough’, out of fear that if they somehow don’t meet their quota God will be angry or unforgiving.  That doesn’t sound like the Jesus who hung out with the tax collectors, the sinners, the adulterous woman and chatted up the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus didn’t go about converting all those people with a scorecard in his pocket.  He met people where they were in life, loved them as they were and it was love, not fear that brought people closer to God.  Love was the key.

My high school renunion is tonight, which reminded me that our school motto is ‘Be Imitators Of Christ’.  That’s not a threat.  It’s not an end goal.  It’s not a line in the sand.  It’s an invitation to live a lifestyle of love and acceptance, not use religion as my ticket into heaven.  It’s my duty to live my life as God has called me to live it.  That means to follow my calling.   As for others, it means I try (and no I don’t always succeed) to accept people as they are.  What they believe and how they live their lives is their business.  It’s not my duty to change their lives or to correct them (which could make me judgmental or righteous).  I can lead only by example, to love as I have been loved.  Yes, easier said than done.  As for conversion,  I leave that heavy lifting to God.  I know he is at work in the lives of all people just as much as he is at work in mine.  I trust that he knows what he’s doing.

I have no fear of death or of facing my maker.  That my time here on earth is limited is not a threat of judgement but a promise of a joyous homecoming.  God’s expectations are the only ones worth living up to.  That being said, God is patient and God knows how much I try.  And in the end, if I’ve got it all wrong,  God will forgive me.