20 years ago today, for a season, the world turned gray. A moment in history that left a scar on the past, a reminder in the present, and hopefully a lasting impression on the future. Many of us remember where we were, what we were doing, who we were with, and how we felt. The colors in my memory are so vivid, the images so sharp and the feelings so raw that it seems as if I have stepped back in time. Then, the world was gray.
There were no masks to cover our feelings; no masks to hide the words we simply mouthed with our lips because our breath had been taken away by disbelief, grief, and fear. We saw only gray people, gray buildings, gray streets, and gray emotions and thoughts as we sat motionless and watched the world change before our eyes. The world was gray.
Tears flowed like rivers and emotions were not hidden. In the midst of all the chaos was a stillness, a numbing of emotions as we tried to take it all in. Most of us were not there in person. But we felt it. Oh, how we felt it. Most of the country, dare I say most of the world, felt empathy. The true empathy of feeling the actual anguish of others burned into our own hearts. The world was gray.
Time ticked away even as the world seemed to stand still. Horrifying events unfurled like an enemy flag draping over a country we thought to be untouchable. Heroism in the face of death was the call of the day for first responders and regular citizens who stood side-by-side in an effort to save those who could not save themselves. People made unfathomable decisions to give their lives to save others. All over the world people fell on their faces to plead with God to save and protect this country and the people in it. All faiths, all backgrounds, even those who profess not to believe in a higher power found themselves on their knees. The world was gray.
Morning came, 9-12. Flags flew as a statement of patriotism, determination, and unity. People joined hands crossing lines of faith, socio-economic status, age, language and color. Each individual bringing their own talents, ideas, dreams, beliefs, experiences, pain, and strength to create the most beautiful world. The pain, anger, and confusion were almost unbearable. The strength of joining together was woven into the very fabric of life. The world was gray.
And yet in the gray there was beauty, the exquisite beauty of oneness. It came without explanation as the weakness of one was undergirded by the strength of another; the fear of one was calmed by the resolve of many. The loss of one was filled by the love of a nation for those experiencing loss. There were no strangers; only people working tirelessly side by side to rescue, clear debris, find answers, calm hearts, and wipe away tears. Not just at the sites of the disasters but in the lives of all citizens. The world was gray.
It was a season; a horrific, anguish-ridden season that we said we would never forget. We have not forgotten, but the world has moved on. It always does. Sometimes I wish the world was still gray. I wish that we could have kept what we learned and the way we responded close enough to our hearts that we would never go back to our old ways of selfishness, judgement, racism, exclusivity, and hatred . But that’s just not the way life works. Rain has fallen and gradually washed away the gray. Rain is not a bad thing. It cleanses us and brings us back to reality. It can bring growth and newness, brilliance and beauty if we are keenly aware of the changes that are happening and stand strong to retain what we have learned. We were not designed and created to live in a gray world. We are wonderfully unique individuals that are designed to be pieced together into an incredible work of art.
So, how do we move forward from here? Now, one third of the world population was not even born or were too young to have any recall of this event. For those who are interested in learning from the past, they rely on photos, videos, and stories told by those of us who lived through it. It is a chapter in a history book or a news story on the anniversary date…9-11…when the world turned gray.
Our words cannot bring to light the changes that we experienced in that season. But our actions can! Jesus created a new covenant when He walked this earth. He said in Matthew 22:37-40 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
We have to love each other! We must see ourselves and others the way God sees us! If you are uncertain how to do that, look at Psalm 139:1-4, 13-16 O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether…For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)
These scriptures have continued to play over and over in my mind the past few days. I hope and pray that they will remind us all of the job we have to do in our world. The weight of our responsibility is reflected in the scriptures above, Matthew 22:37-40 and also in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, may we move forward in hope – the confident expectation that everything God promised, He will do! Let us begin on our knees and then continue in our daily walk. Love God…Love Others. Be the light!