Every once in a while I look back at what I’ve written before and realize that maybe, just maybe, I captured my thoughts as well as I could have in that moment. So rather than writing a new 9/11 post today, I thought I would just share what I wrote last year as I don’t know that I would do it any differently today than I did then.
Tuesday, September 11th
On a spectacular fall morning in Southern Rhode Island not unlike today, I stepped into my car to head out to a monthly meeting with the local Evangelical ministers, taking place down the road at Perryville Church. I usually would flip on the local sports talk radio station to listen to them chatter about the Red Sox and the Patriots, but this morning I decided to leave the radio off, and instead spent the 10 minutes riding in relative silence.
There were a few men already gathered at Perryville when I arrived a short time later, but instead of the normal exchange of pleasantries and catching up from the events of the summer, a different kind of buzz was happening. A plane, no now two planes, had flown into the World Trade Center towers. An accident? No, it couldn’t be. An odd mix of fear and sadness settled over us.
We gathered around a small television set; just an old-fashioned set with an antenna and no cable to watch the grainy images coming in from New York. Like millions of others we were stuck in our seats, captured by shock and fear, watching the surreal drama unfold. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, or since. We prayed and then we watched as the towers fell, and then we prayed again. Eventually we began to filter out – each of us to our respective homes, or churches, or on to some other place with some other group of people, and there we would ask the same questions, think the same thoughts, pray the same prayers, and wait.
I stood up the following Sunday to deliver a message about loss, healing, and hope. The predictions were that people would flock back to churches that Sunday looking for answers to the questions like how could a good God allow this to happen. And they did. Statistics show there was a big bump in church attendance that week, and for some even the few weeks after. But then something happened. Or perhaps something didn’t happen. People forgot, because that’s what people do.
Bad things happen around us, and we can’t imagine ever forgetting how bad we felt, how we wept, how we prayed, how we sought comfort. But give us a few weeks or months or maybe years and we will forget.
God knows this is true of us, which is maybe why he so often tells people not to forget – not to forget him, not to forget his faithfulness, not to forget his grace, and not to forget his presence. We forget, even if we are not forgotten. If there’s anything to say on a day in which we make ourselves remember something we would much rather forget, it’s that we should also remember that there is a God who never forgets us.
At a time of its own national tragedy, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to remind himself and his people that God is not a forgetful God. Here’s what he wrote in Lamentations 3:19-23:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
I remember, but I’m even more glad that God remembers.