Many of us have probably been remembering or asking today, “Where were you 20 years ago?”
Like many of us, I remember where I was: I’d just moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2001 to begin serving as the Director of Youth Ministries at the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk. It was my first time living in a naval town. After hearing of the attacks on the twin towers, I went to our local high school to ask how I could be of assistance. They directed me to the guidance counselor’s office, which was packed with students. For most of these students, one or both parents served with the Navy. Their parents were immediately called to their ships in case they needed to be immediately deployed. To this day, I still vividly remember a student asking me, “Will I ever see my parents again?” To this day, I still vividly remember how, while I’m normally quick to say, “It’ll be ok,” on that day those words and that assurance didn’t come so quickly…
Fast forward to December 2011, roughly ten years after 9/11…James and I visited the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. In looking at one of the pools, I noticed a faint rainbow shooting out from it. It was a powerful reminder to me that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
We ask, “Where were you 20 years ago?” I might also ask: “Where are you now?” We have some who want to remember; we have others who’d rather forget. May I humbly say: You are heard, you are seen, and you are most definitely loved.
On a Presbytery Zoom call on Wednesday, we talked about that phrase: “It’ll be ok.” It was a phrase I had a hard time saying 20 years ago. I may still have a hard time saying it today, when the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan, when we’re still trying to emerge out of a pandemic. But even if my heart doesn’t always know it’s true, my head does: “It’s going to be ok.” Why? Well, at the risk of sounding trite, because Jesus said so: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose….What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:28, 31).
As for that photo and the rainbow? I still firmly believe the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, cannot, and will never overcome it.
I conclude with this prayer, a prayer we will pray after tolling the hour 20 times tomorrow in worship:
Prayer for International Crisis
Eternal God, our only hope,
our help in times of trouble:
show nations ways to work out differences.
Do not let threats multiply
or power be used without compassion.
May your will overrule human willfulness,
so that people may agree and settle claims peacefully.
Hold back those who are impulsive,
lest desire for vengeance overwhelm our common welfare.
Bring peace to earth, through Jesus Christ,
the Prince of Peace and Savior of us all.