On the Eve of 911

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Ten years ago tonight, the nation basked in relative naivety. It was a Monday night and we all enjoyed the cooling temperatures, the normalcy of kids, back at their academic routines, and the traditions of high school and college football in full swing. We were whetting our appetites for the good things of autumn—hayrides, apple cider, and the turning of the leaves. We watched the news before we went to bed. The Bush tax cuts had recently passed and a Marxist suicide bomber had blown himself up in an Istanbul square. In Britain, a woman who had won a million pounds on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” had been proven to be a fraud, aided by a coughing accomplice in the audience. We went to bed. What was about to occur was unthinkable to any of us. It would change our worlds in ways we could not yet comprehend; from the angst we would feel when we put our children to bed at night to the way we would pack our bags for flight travel to the expression that would forevermore strike pride in the hearts of our countrymen: Let’s roll!
And in a few short hours the towers had fallen, the bodies were being pulled from the wreckage, the grave and somber truth about Al Qaeda was sinking in and, in our bedrooms, parents were discussing how and how much to share with our young children about the tragedy that we came to know as 911. You remember where you were that morning. I was getting ready to go and teach a community Bible study class in which ladies of all faiths gathered weekly to study the Word of God. As the terrible images flashed on my television screen, I wondered if anyone would come that day. I wondered what I would say, if they did. I was prayerful for the comfort and hope of the gospel of Christ to flow through me that day. I understood my smallness like never before and I truly knew the inadequacy of any words I could offer as the women with ashen and fearful faces gathered in that library conference room in Collierville, Tennessee that day. And I knew that the fear and shock in that room were but microcosmic views of a nation simply stricken with horror and uncertainty.
And then, my neighbor, Jean, came through the gate of the back fence and knocked on my door. Jean had recently emigrated from Taiwan. Raised to be atheistic and married to an atheist, she had recently learned the gospel. We had spent hours talking about the Christ. I had offered evidences of the Truth of God’s Word and the deity of Jesus. I had shown her God’s plan for her life from the New Testament. Along with the teachings had come hours of time in her home and mine, building a friendship, sometimes awkward because of different backgrounds, but always congenial and constant. She had become comfortable talking to me about issues as important as problems in her marriage and as insignificant as how to order things online. She would often ask me about what some phrase meant in English or about some measurement in a recipe. I would grow physically tired when I was with her, because I would try to help her with her children, the language, the traffic laws as she drove, and the prices in the grocery store. But I found her amusing, in a sweet way, and I grew to care deeply for her lost soul. 
On September 11th, she was frantic when she walked into my living room. “How?” she almost screamed. “How, can you just calmly go on with your life, as if nothing has happened?…You act like this is just another, day!” she continued. “How can you leave your house when you do not know when or where the next bomb will land?” The tension in her words were palpable and even her children could not help but be shaken by her obvious agitation. She was the embodiment of the terror and fear that had visited our nation. And it was true, you know. At the time, no one knew if there were more imminent attacks. No one knew how many bombs might already have been brought on to aircraft carriers and how many lives were yet to be claimed.
But the answer, in my mind, was, while perhaps an oversimplification, the only one I had to offer. “I can go on with life,” I said, “because I’m good, either way.” She looked at me with her beautiful black slanted eyes…questioning eyes… and I kept talking. “See, I want to keep living in this house on this street. I want to raise my kids in this country and I want to one day be a grandmother to their children. But, if we are the next casualties, we will not stop living. We will just get to go on and be with God now. That’s what I’ve been telling you all along, Jean. If I were you, I would be afraid. I would be so afraid that I would want to become a part of the body of Christ this very moment. I would want the security of knowing it will be okay, eternally, no matter what.” I knew that, though, it was all I had to offer, it was the ultimate security. It was all she or I, or anyone else has ever needed to be okay. And I knew that it really wasn’t my small pittance of an offering of comfort. It was the Savior’s gift. It was the largest, most expensive gift of all time. And it was hers for the taking, right then and there, if she was but willing to submit to His terms—the terms we had discussed from the Word on so many calmer and happier days. She acknowledged her need to obey the Lord and, as always, told me she planned to be a Christian…soon.
But she walked back through the gate without accepting the Gift. She walked through all of her days until I moved to another city in another state without accepting the Gift. For a while I kept in contact and each time I talked with her I talked about the Gift. I would always ask her about her husband and her children. But it was the question about the Lord—“Have you thought some more about being baptized and becoming a Christian?” that was foremost in my heart. Always hopeful, I was always disappointed. I do not know where Jean is today, She, too, moved a couple of times and I lost contact with her sweet family. I hope she might be reading this today. Her toddlers, Amy and Kevin, would now be teens. I pray she has chosen by now to put on the Lord in baptism and that she could possibly be faithful to worship and serve Him. I pray that her family may have been blessed by the presence of the Lord around their table and in their decisions. They are either ten years richer because of Him or they are ten years the poorer without Him.
Back to her original question: “How can you go on as if nothing has happened?” I wanted to turn that question around and shout it at her. “Don’t you understand?! That’s what I’ve been saying to you all along! How can you just go on with your life…you and so many other people…living life in oblivion? How can you just go on as if Calvary never happened?!” How can people examine and experience tragedy and terror and be willing to go about their regular activities in a world of uncertainty—unprepared for the inevitable end of life? Our towers will all fall, one day. So volatile we are; so vulnerable in view of the brevity and fragility of life.  How can we possibly be aware of the security purchased at Calvary and “just go on as if nothing has happened?”  
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Hebrews 2:3
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