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Monday, April 27, 2009

Waking Up to our Need for God

I believe that if any lesson is to be gleaned from the tragedy of September 11, 2001 it is that no matter how much we have or how good our life is we need more than anything to cling to God. At the time I was working at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, Arizona as the youth minister. I awoke to a roommate knocking at my door saying to get up, something horrible had happened.

Together the four of us along with a guest watched in horror as the towers fell. We all know the emotion of that day. Each time they repeated the footage of the plane entering the tower I felt a blow to my chest. Then we watched in utter horror as the towers each fell. With each image my heart and soul was pierced.

Our guest had arrived the night before in Arizona, he had moved from New York and this was how he spent his first day in his new home. For all the sorrow and pain that the rest of us felt, we could not help but hurt for him as he frantically called those closest to him only to find that phone service was cut-off. Without hesitation we all entered into prayer. On our knees we begged God's grace on this moment, for us, for our friend and those he loved back in New York, and of course for all of those who must have lost their lives. To this day I still ache when I see images of that day, or when I recollect memories of that day.

What a horrific event. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to watch that and not have their soul shaken about. It was a wake up call, a reminder. It was an event that would have us all checking ourselves and our lives a bit. There are countless stories of divorced couples who reevaluated their lives and got back together, family members who reconciled past differences, and countless people who came back to Church, at least for a time.

I recall the prayer service that our church held a day or two later. It was at lunchtime. We left the service open to the public. It was amazing, I would say there had to be well over 1500 people filling the Church which sat only about 1200. People were pouring in from all over. Many hadn't been to church in a very long time. Yet, the way people prayed would have made you think there was a revival going on. People prayed with everything they had. For the next month or so it seemed that attendance was up at most churches. People had woken up to their need for God, at least for a time.

That is the sad part, it was only for a time. It seems that it is easy to forget our need to trust in God. We are a nation of doers. We thrive on adversity and overcoming obstacles. The more we can succeed autonomously, the more we are praised for our victories. "I did it my way", goes the song and we love that song. We cheer as Sinatra bellows the final chorus, "I did it myyyyyyy wayyyy!"

What September 11, did for us as a nation was to wake us up to our need for God, Psalm 23, was sounding pretty good as we walked through that valley of death as a nation. Yet, that seemed to only last for a time. Once the stock market bounced back, businesses got to be booming again, and the unemployment lines got shorter we started singing our favorite old song again.

We have learned to accept exterior comfort in place of internal peace of heart and mind. I know it in myself. It seems I pray pretty darn well when I am in need of something. Boy I can pray when I'm trying to stretch that paycheck just a little further than it can go. But, when I have a little extra to throw around I find I don't have so much time for prayer. Why is that?

[This post is the first in a series of posts I will be doing on Trust. Click here to read Part Two "Wake Up and Lean Into God".]