Fifteen years ago today, September 11, 2001, life as we knew it changed forever. The unthinkable became thinkable. The impossible became possible. The “never here” came here.
As I sat at my office desk trying to comprehend the events along with my co-workers, only one thing ran through my mind. Home. I have to get home. I raced to my kid’s daycare, scooped them up in my arms and drove as fast as legally allowed to get to safety. I expected traffic. I expected road closures. I encountered none of these and within minutes, I was home. My kids were safe. I was safe.
Safe…a comforting word to some. To others, it’s the antithesis of who they are. The risk-takers, the daredevils. Their lives are anything but safe as they seek thrill after thrill. Not me. I’ll pass thank you very much.
While I admit to a daring act or two in my life like trying a new food or taking a new way home from time to time, you will not find me in line waiting to bungee jump off a cliff or hurl myself out of a plane. Nope. Not happening.
I’m what you’d call a calculated risk taker. I think about the possible outcomes and if it’s not too death-defying, I’ll give it a try. I have to say that with my advancing age, the list of things landing on my “just do it” list is getting a bit longer though will never include things that risk my or my kid’s lives.
Security is a tricky word. We seek out things that make us feel secure like homes, good jobs, people – however we likely will find out that they are not what they appear. They do not provide lasting security. They can’t always be depended on. They will let us down. They are fleeting.
Such is life, yes? We go about our lives safe in the routines of our day – sometimes despising the sameness of it all and wishing something was different – wanting something new. Then when the novel thing occurs, we ache to go back to the mundane. We regret trying the chicken curry when the tried-and-true cheeseburger would’ve filled our hungry bellies.
To stay stagnant is to invite death. Maybe not today ortomorrow but eventually. Think about it – if we don’t move our bodies, muscles and cells will eventually decay. If we don’t discard standing pools of water, they will attract potentially life-threatening bugs. If we don’t stretch our brains, critical neurons shut down. It’s not healthy to stay the same and we were not created to do so.
The other day I had the privilege of babysitting my two great nieces. One is a toddler and the other an infant. The physical differences between them are nothing short of miraculous. The younger child fits in my arms while the elder stands tall. It’s hard to imagine that within a few years, with proper nutrition, rest, and love, each will transform and become a shadow of their former selves – unrecognizable in many respects.
So what do my babysitting insights have to do with this day in history or risk-taking? They both have one thing in common. Change.
Just like our physical bodies go through a myriad of changes throughout our lives, so must the other parts of ourselves. We must be willing to look in the mirror and see past the top layers and discover what lies beneath – for that is truly who we are. That’s who we were created to be.
Like I wrote about last week – it’s not the hair and makeup that define our identity, it’s our hearts. What lives in our hearts today? Are there stagnant pools of fear or anger or hatred? Or are there oceans of love, forgiveness, and compassion?
As I over-indulged in the intoxicating smell of my baby niece in the wee hours of the morning, I knew exactly what was in her little heart. As I caressed her peach-fuzz hair, I knew exactly what thoughts were going through her sweet head. As I reveled in her tiny fingers that wrapped themselves around mine during a late-night feeding, I knew exactly the purpose of those hands.
Pure, unfiltered, unprejudiced, no holds-barred love. She didn’t know it, but that’s exactly what she was doing. Being a shining example of unconditional love. She didn’t care that I had on no makeup. She didn’t care that my hair was a hot mess. She didn’t care if I had a job or had a lot of money or drove a Mercedes. She loved me for me.
Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to babies and small children so much. They are shining examples of God’s love. Unconditional love – no matter what we do or what we look like or what label is in our clothes. Nope – none of that matters and do you know what the real kicker is? We didn’t have to do anything to earn it. Not. One. Thing.
Just like my baby niece did nothing to earn my love for her, neither do I have to do anything to earn God’s love. I just gotta be me. Safety-seeking, mistake-laden, don’t always practice what I preach me. As I wake up each morning, He’s there to greet me and is overjoyed at spending some time with me.
Despite today being the 15th anniversary of a horrific day in our country’s history, I’m going to take a risk and make a change in how I spend the day. How?
I will choose to focus on the profound love that is with us each day. I will honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to mourn by being an example of that love. As my niece so selflessly shared her love to me, I will do the same for others. I will encourage you to consider that you are loved unconditionally – no matter what the state of your body or mind or heart.
Now that’s something we should never forget.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)