Sunday, April 28, 2013

life after terror

I often hear people talk about a post 9-11 world. When I was working with elementary school students last year and would see birth dates from 2005, it would occasionally strike me that they would know of the attacks on the World Trade Center only as an historical fact. Co-workers commented about how these kids would never know what the world was like before 9-11. And honestly, I could never quite wrap my head around what that meant. Is the world really all that different, other than the fact that my odds of getting strip searched at the airport are significantly higher as time goes on? Maye it's basic for everyone else, but despite the fact that I was a junior in college in 2001 and had plenty of pre-9-11 experience, I just couldn't see the difference all that clearly.

Several months ago, there was a mini-earthquake in Lexington. Most people didn't feel it. But I was alone on the 15th floor of an office building, where a small tremor is amplified, and I felt the whole building shake. The thing is, I don't associate Kentucky with earthquakes, so it didn't cross my mind as a possible explanation. What did cross my mind was an image of the whole building tumbling down around me ala a bomb or some other attack, and I quickly left the building. In time it became clear that all was ok, and I went back to my office, but it took a while to shake the sense of terror.

A few weeks ago, I was walking out of the same office building when I heard a rumble. I still don't know what it was, but I do know that I spent most of the walk from my office to the pharmacy thinking about whether the phone lines would be tied up if I needed to tell my husband that it's ok, I wasn't in the building when "it" happened--whatever horror "it" might have been. The strange thing was that it was sort of a mundane thought process. I was casually making a contingency plan. That's when it began to sink in to me. That was when I thought, "THIS is what they mean by a post 9-11 world."

Recently, I considered asking a stranger to watch my things (mostly my backpack) while I ran to the restroom at Barnes and Noble. And then I pictured a shredded black backpack on a sidewalk in Boston, and I thought, "I don't know if that situation will feel safe to anyone anymore." A girl at the library asked the same favor of me today, and though I did it without hesitation, I was a little more antsy to see her return than I would have been a month ago. I live in a post-Boston marathon world.

Since that mini-earthquake, I have been thinking about what all this means for the life of faith. I think of John's words: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." That's one of those verses that's beautiful as a platitude, perhaps an embroidered pillow or a bookmark, but completely unsettling when taken seriously. Take it in for a moment. There is a love so deep and high and long and wide that it actually eclipses fear entirely. It is the trump card of all trump cards. THAT is the love of God. It's an ocean I dip my toe in sometimes.

Faith that overcomes fear, that banks on the trump card even when the ante has been raised immeasurably--would be an astounding statement to a watching world. I'm wrestling with that today.