10 Years and What Have We Learned
I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I’m sure you do too. I was just walking into my 9:00 Exodus Book Study class at North Greenville College. Dr. Pete Wilbanks gave us the news about the attacks on the Twin Towers, we prayed, and then he dismissed class. My Dad was in Brazil on a mission trip. All international flights shut down to and from the US. He was stuck.
Confusion. Betrayal. Anger. Unbelief. Fear. Uncertainty. The whole gamut of emotions ran through every ounce of my being. The feeling of powerlessness was stifling. As the news unfolded throughout the day, the images we saw forever changed the landscape, make-up and temperament of America. Church doors flew open for around-the-clock prayer. The Sunday after 9/11, pews were packed with people who had not stepped foot in a church in years, perhaps ever. In the midst of the tragedy, there were glimmers of hope for a country that had in many ways turned her back on God. There was the prevailing feeling, at least among most Christian evangelicals, that these events would soon act as a catalyst to bring America back to Christ. But you know what happened.
As soon as some semblance of stability and structure was reintroduced, the American dream based on secular humanism and extreme individualism reared its ugly head once again. America no longer needed God. He was the crutch to get her through the initial pain and shock, but He was no longer needed. He was no longer necessary. America was dealing with her enemies. America was standing on her own two feet. America was her own counselor, her own defense, her own support system. God was obsolete.
This vicious cycle is repeated throughout history—both biblical and non-biblical history. A nation turns from God. Tragedy strikes. The nation seeks God again. God brings healing and restoration. The nation no longer needs God. Over and over. It’s a cycle that seems to always divorce itself from lessons learned, thus they are never really learned. Only flirted with. Only petted and stroked on the surface. But they never take root.
After ten years, I see this cycle in our own country. Still though, I hope and pray we’re not too far gone to still learn something from this. I hope that we’ve learned individualism isn’t the answer. I hope that we’ve learned skepticism isn’t the answer.
I wonder if the skeptic who asks “Where was God on 9/11?” and “Why would a good God allow such evil in the world?” has ever stopped to think about the more compelling and provocative alternative; namely, a God who would design robots to love Him out of duty, not choice. To me that’s the the worse option. But He didn’t. He created us with free-will. The men who flew the planes into the towers and into the pentagon acted on their own accord, out of the free-will of their heart put there by a loving Creator. God didn’t do it. Evil men did it. And only the Gospel makes sense of the overwhelming evil that we find ourselves in.
My sincere hope and prayer is that after ten years, we’ve learned something, both as a nation and as the church of God. I pray that we’ve learned that picking ourselves up by the bootstraps, beating off the dust and and buckling down by the sheer power of our will, is not the answer. That can only get us so far. It can’t bridge the eternal gap between our souls and our Savior. The worldview that we are all essentially good at heart and we are all “children of God” can’t make sense of a world that is wrecked and ravaged by sin, brutality, terrorism, crime, injustice, poverty, disease, homelessness, etc. Only the cross makes sense of it. Only a worldview that proclaims that Jesus came to save sinners, and on our best day we can’t do enough good to be made right with a holy God can make sense of our situation. Only by seeing our plight through the suffering and beauty of the cross can we ever hope to make sense of the hell all around us.