I was sixteen. My brother and I were sitting in the living room, trying our best to learn American sign language by signing along with the lady on the video we were watching. I think the video stopped working or something. For one reason or another, we took it out and fooled around with it. As soon as we took it out of the player, we saw that NBC news was on. I was aware of New York City and a lot of smoke. The TV pretty much stayed on around the clock after that for the next several weeks.
I had so many questions. What was the World Trade Center, anyway? I’d never heard of it. What was going through the minds of the people I saw jumping from the towers to their deaths? Why were the news stations showing Palestinians dancing in the street? Was it true? Were people really so happy that American civilians were dying? Who did this? Why?
It had all of the surreal qualities of a really bad dream. As I learned more and more, I felt more and more shocked and numb until, like a dam breaking, the tears came in torrents a week later as they did today when I remembered. Thirteen years! Has it really been that long?
Now my generation has its own personal Pearl Harbor. And like Pearl Harbor, it changed everything, colored everything. In a matter of hours, we all knew that nothing would ever be the same again. I’m used to it now. I’m used to America collectively looking over its shoulder to see what might be coming next. Welcome to the rest of the world.
Three years after that day, Satan made a terrorist attack on my soul. One moment, I was content in my faith. In the next instant, all assurance of God’s love, all confidence in His Word was wiped away. It was years before it ever came back, and I’m still dealing with the residual skirmishes. In retrospect, I think 9/11 made me susceptible to that attack. In the aftermath of the towers, well-known, intelligent people began to speak out against religion in general as a hateful, destructive force. And anyway, why would a God who loved allow such horrors to happen? I couldn’t really blame them for thinking that and asking that question. They set out to discredit all religion because they were afraid of what it could do. I was the collateral damage along with many others. I faced several years of nearly crippling fear and uncertainty. Though September 11, 2001 was a fearful day, it was nothing compared to the fear that gripped me concerning my faith.
God, are you there? Would you please come closer? I can’t feel you. Would it be strange to tell you that I only found peace when I rediscovered the evil in my heart? But it’s true.
The Bible said that long ago, in a beautiful garden, a woman named Eve took something that did not belong to her. Listening to the serpent’s persuasive speech, she chose to eat a piece of fruit that God had said she must not eat. She gave it to her husband, Adam, and he ate it too. Nothing was ever the same after that. A hideous sickness began its reign in their hearts and spread to the very ground they walked on. Thorns began to grow and choke out the lush vegetation, and Adam was hard pressed to keep ahead of the thorns his sin had caused. Innocent animals were killed, skinned, and used to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness. Driven from their beautiful garden, they faced a world forever contaminated by one sinful choice, destined to spread the disease in their hearts to every new born child. There was one hope. God promised to bring relief through a descendant of Eve, free of Adam’s taint. Through the seed of the woman, a child would be born who would crush the serpent’s head and be bruised for his efforts, bruised but not destroyed.
When I again saw the unmistakable evil in my own heart, the evil I had inherited from Adam, I could finally breathe easy. It meant that God’s Word was true. And it pointed me towards that other day when a perfect man, the descendant of Eve, nailed to a wooden cross, gasped out his last words, “It is finished.” The earth shook as he bowed his head. It was a day that changed everything, colored everything. Because of that day, there is a remedy for the evil in my heart. In dying; Eve’s descendant, the second Adam; passed the test. He crushed the serpents head, laid down his life, and took it up again. The bruise all healed, he went up into Heaven and he waits until the appointed day when he will come again. The disciples knew that nothing would ever be the same again. They went out in boldness and spread the word. They lived their lives in suffering. Most of them were put to death, because the sickness in the hearts of men caused men to fear and seek to discredit a religion that seemed to be turning the world upside down. Such a strange upside down, too, when men will die for their faith instead of kill for it.
The serpent is already crushed. He did not win a victory on September 11, 2001. He did not win a victory when he attacked my faith. Jesus determined the outcome of history at Calvary. The world may seem to get worse and worse, but it is only the birth pangs of an old world giving way to the new, where the lion will lie down with the lamb and no one will be afraid. In the meanwhile, there is mercy for me and mercy for the terrorist and everyone before and in between and after. There is time to claim it before He comes. But even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.