Hi everyone. Rob here.
I am on a deadline. I have a thesis due in 5 weeks and I’m behind. I’m behind because, in hindsight, I have treated it more like a hobby than a mission. I have dipped in and dipped out of it. I have spent concentrated time on it but I have also let it lapse at times. It has not received the deeply focussed attention that a thesis deserves. And now, I find myself with 5 weeks to go and a lot to do. And that’s OK.
It’s okay because God has used the last 2.5 years of part-time thesis writing to teach me a great deal about himself, his kingdom and my own heart. If the process teaches you then the process, no matter how painful, is worth it.
I have been writing about the tragic events of 9/11 and how God’s name was used in the aftermath of that tragedy. As I’ve delved into Presidential addresses, speeches by religious leaders, 9/11 memorials and the musings of pop culture I have been struck by three things that seem to be a way forward for all of us through the pluralistic and divided world we live in: Hear and honour each other’s stories; practice radical hospitality and make space and spaces for God.
First, hear and honour each other’s stories. We’ve just held a woman’s conference at our church and they spent most of it hearing and sharing the stories of their lives. They are now bonded together in a way they never were before. When we hear each others story we honour each other. We honour our past, our heartache, our courage and our faith. Stories create empathy which is the foundation of compassion, and, as people who have all suffered wounds, we all need compassion. Even being aware that everyone has a story behind their actions creates increased empathy, and doesn’t this world need a little more empathy these days?
Second, practice radical hospitality. Look up my post by the same name for more on this, but, it seems to me that eating together, being in each others homes, seeing who they really are and letting them see you is a powerful tool of love. So often as Christians we want to correct people, preach at them or judge them. We create distance between us and them instead of closing the gap and creating a ‘we.’ We don’t need to compromise our faith or our doctrinal stances to do this but we do need to be courageous in our love. We also need to be wise and discerning. Jesus was but he still ate with Pharisees.
Third, make space and spaces for God (see my post ‘Making Space for God’). As I sat in reflection at the memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the sight of the Flight 93 crash, God drew near. The way the designers blended the natural landscape with man-made elements made reflection and prayer possible and even, probable. They didn’t need to impose God on people. Instead they created a space where it felt right to turn to God. We need more of these kinds of spaces in our lives. We also need to make space in our own lives for God. A poorly designed memorial is one you don’t pause at. If our life doesn’t have pauses in it then it’s a sign that we have designed it poorly.
In my research I found all three points in action after 9/11. By doing so places like St Paul’s Chapel, the 9/11 memorials and Redeemer Church in New York helped to bring healing and love to many. Singers like Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon gave words to the suffering. Leaders like Billy Graham and Tim Keller communicated Christ’s loving presence. These three points are for anyone, Christian and non-Christian, to practice but they gain real power when the love of Christ is at their heart. May we practice them well in this world that desperately needs God’s love to be seen and heard.