That awareness got a firm foothold in my heart after 9/11. Back then, I was the editor of a denominational magazine, and in the weeks following that day many letters from Christian brothers and sisters from around the world arrived in my office. They were beautiful, loving letters full of comfort, encouragement and heart-felt prayers. The ones that I remember most, however, were from those who lived in active war zones. While the death and horror of 9/11 dropped me to my knees, I wasn't there in person. But for the folks who wrote those letters, the death and killing was much, much closer. I knew from reading their stories and knowing the history of church-life in those areas that these folks lived with daily threats and reminders of death, violence and horror—from bombed-out buildings they walk past each day to the empty chairs at the meals where aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and children used to sit. For them, death and war were part of their everyday life.
Yet also from their stories and history, I knew that these folks—ones who’ve lost more than I ever will—also lived and breathed in a much bigger world. They actively worked to end the wars and bring justice where there wasn’t any. They consistently reached out to those around them—both their neighbors and (amazingly) their enemies—with love and hope. They worked for reconciliation between their peoples. And they did this all in the midst of war and in the name of Jesus.
It still humbles me a great deal to realize how many people live like that each day of their lives. And it makes sense now that they were among the first to reach out with deep love and confidence that God is who he says and can and will do what he says, reminding us of whose we are and how we are called to live and love. They could do that because that is where they lived and breathed.
That kind of love and trust in God is both humbling and strengthening. It makes me realize that far too often I walk around with the illusion that I have power to protect and control my life, the world around me and the lives of those I love. But the folks who wrote those letters know different—and they know where real life, security and meaning reside. Life is lived best when I accept the truth—like Job, David, Peter, Paul and a host of others in Scripture—that I do not have that control, but that a much more abundant life and all I am comes from and finds its meaning and purpose in God. While suffering, wrong-ness and ground-shaking evil may rage around us, God is right here-and-now. He’s loving and working and breathing all creation towards new life and restoration—which one day, at the end of the Story, will be fully realized. And he invites us to walk and work with him to not only confront death and destruction but also to bring life and restoration wherever we go. Indeed, we live and breathe in that greater reality, one that embraces and penetrates and expands the physical world in which we reside.
Indeed, that WT article reminds me where I live—not only geographically but more holistically. As I walk the streets of my neighborhood today, I will try to remember that I live and breathe in the Kingdom beside my brothers and sisters who penned those letters of hope and love.
And that’s a good place to be.
(Image: Public Domain via Wikipedia)