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As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of a story from my own life that changed me profoundly. Long before the terrorist attacks I befriended a family. They were, and still are, kind and understanding. I enjoyed their company. My thought is that most people would find joy in knowing my friends. I can honestly say that my life is better because they were a part of my life.
One horrible day, my friends lost their three year old child in a very bizarre accident. I have never seen a community grieve like they did for my friends. On the day of the funeral, I was invited to pray over the body of their small son. The men in the group began to shovel dirt into the hole which became a final resting place for the body of this wonderful little boy. My friend assured me that the soul of their little one continues on and eagerly looks forward to a reunion in heaven.
As I spoke with my friends after the funeral, I asked the question, “How are you able to cope with this loss?” They explained to me stories of their faith and how that faith sustains them through extremely difficult times such as these. I stood back and felt the presence of God fill me as I gave praise to my Creator. I wanted the kind of faith of which my friends spoke. They had an incredible anchor in the time of storm.
My friends were, and still are, members of another faith tradition. That day there was no talk of who was right and who was wrong. There was simply the presence of the awesome Creator of us all. My limited scope of my Christian faith grew that day, for I realized that our God is bigger than anything we can ever imagine. Something within me felt enlightened in ways I had never before experienced. I understood that day that I am not meant to judge another person. I am simply called to love them. In the middle of love and understanding God dwells within us. The most important thing is not that we prove to each other who is right or who is wrong. The main thing is that we love each other as Christ loved us. Language will take care of itself. It is the gift of love that will speak to our hearts more clearly and certainly more profoundly.
I use this story of my friends, because up until the point that I revealed to you their religious system, the story could have sounded like any one of our Christian stories. I am not saying that we are to water down the Christian message of hope and surrender our fundamental beliefs. I suggest quite the opposite. We humble ourselves to accept that the Holy Spirit may manifest its Divine presence in any way God chooses to reveal God’s self. The truth is I had to practice the gift of love to experience the joy of friendship or to grieve with my fellow brothers and sisters in the sorrow of loss. God was present in my life when I surrendered my lack of compassion and simply loved as Christ loves me. God’s love was with me, through me, and revealed in spite of me.
I am a Christian with a powerful awareness that I am not called to verbally chastise the world in absolute judgment, but I am here to transform the world with actions of love. This love inspires me to continue in service to humanity. As we come to the time of remembering those who lost lives or those who lost loved ones due to acts of terrorism, let us remember that we must move beyond our desire for revenge. Our weapon and strength is the most powerful one we can muster. It is the love and radical presence of our Almighty God. As the Apostle Paul said, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor. 13:4-7). Let us continue in our journey towards perfection.