The anniversary of 9/11 … there are few people in the country unaware of the significance of this date. I touched on the anniversary in a post earlier this month and there are media presentations and blog posts aplenty to commemorate this day, so I won’t presume an ability to outshine them. I simply pay tribute to the heroes, both men and women, who ran toward danger. I honor their courage and heroism.
The human mind has an amazing facility to distance itself (almost immediately) from horrific events. Yes, we remember where we were on certain dates, what we were doing, and specifically, how awful we felt watching the drama of 9/11 unfold before our eyes, but our minds are driven to minimize painful details. When it comes to the 9/11 attack, a paternalistic media abets the mind’s intense inclination to forget; they mostly refused to replay any videos related to that day.
In my view, pain – even the pain of unpleasant events being replayed – is important. I’m reminded of a book Philip Yancey wrote back in 1977 titled Where Is God When It Hurts? Yancey related his experiences in a leper colony where people suffering from leprosy lost their normal ability to feel pain. Absent the natural ability to feel pain, their bodies deteriorated and became distorted. As Yancey described the diseased people with whom he worked, he asserted that pain is a gift from God, part of the way we were created and terribly important to our survival.
As the tragedy of 9/11 began to be fully understood, I remember thinking about a particular song. It is one I will always connect with 9/11. The video below is from a live performance of this song, In The Waiting, sung by Greg Long and Janna Long. (The version to which I listened in those post-9/11 days was a studio version and then a similar track was remixed with references to 9/11.) I’ve included the original lyrics below the video.
The gift nobody longs for, still it comes
And somehow leaves us stronger
When it’s gone away
I try and pray for Your will to be done
But I confess it’s never fast enough for me
the hardest part is waiting on You
When what I really want
Is just to see Your hand move
I want a peace beyond my understanding
I want to feel it fall like rain
In the middle of my hurting
I want to feel Your arms as they surround me
And let me know that it’s okay
To be here in this place
Resting in the peace that only comes
In the waiting
Time to let it go and just believe
Trusting in what no one else but You can see
Freedom from the fears that close me in
When I can’t get beyond where I have been, but then
The silence doesn’t mean that I’m alone
As long as I can hear
That I am still Your own
This song reiterates what Yancey’s book underscores, the idea of pain as a gift, the gift nobody longs for … the lyrics echo emotions I’ve experienced during painful times in my life. But I also have some understanding for Yancey’s question (title of his book) Where Is God When It Hurts?
God is there in the pain, bearing it with me, giving me a peace that is so far beyond my understanding. Such a blessing! A gift!