Recently, I’ve seen a lot of headlines comparing the new post-COVID-19 pandemic world with the post-9/11 world. I was in 3rd grade when 9/11 happened. I vividly remember sitting in my desk at school and the principal’s voice coming on over the speakers for a moment of silence. I remember going home and sitting in front of the TV as my eyes that had only watched the world around me for 8 little years witnessed those planes deliberately strike the twin towers. I didn’t realize what was happening, but as they crumbled, the world we had always known did too. Our idea of safety and security felt like the ash and rubble that made the epicenter of the world stand still. I think, in those moments, for those of us who were old enough to process what was happening, everything must have felt very fragile. I’ve never known airports without security, so it doesn’t seem so traumatic of a change for me.
But I have known a world without social distancing.
I’ve known a world without face masks and obsessive use of hand sanitizer and feeling like you’ve been exposed to death because someone coughs or sneezes.
I’d like to think that my optimism doesn’t blind me, but I’m just not an “in the moment” processor. It takes me time. And while I’ve had the conversation countless times, today I was on the phone with one of my volunteers at church and it struck me in a different way. We were talking about the unknown timeline of worshiping together in person again and how different things will be. She said to me, “We should be able to fit everyone in the sanctuary and remain at a safe distance.”
I felt the shock sear through me as my heart broke a little…
She’s not wrong.
While my brain’s initial reaction was to think about how silly that seemed, because who goes to church and thinks about sitting six feet apart from the person next to them? The truth is, we have no idea what any of this is going to look like. I’m definitely not saying that six-feet-apart worship services are the new reality, but I am saying we don’t actually know what reality is. It only felt silly because my brain hasn’t been rewired to think of it as normal. But normal can’t even be defined in these days. We have to recondition our minds.
I realized today, for the first time, I think I’m going to have to mourn the world I grew up in. She has changed, and she will never be the same. I don’t really know what it was like to grow up in America before terrorists attacked us. But I know what it was like to live in America before going anywhere seemed to be a literal threat to your health and well-being. And what I really know, is that now in New York City, there is an incredible building that stands tall and offers hope. In fact, it is the tallest building in The United States and in the Western Hemisphere. It’s called the One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower.
I’ve been all the way up to the top of it and looked out. It stands on Ground Zero. And just like that strong beacon of hope stands where the world once fell apart, so will we.
It’ll take time, but we’ll rebuild.
It may not look the same, but it will still be beautiful.
That tower stands as a literal reminder of what it means for beauty to come from ashes and we will stand as walking reminders of the same. (Is. 61)
Walking beacons of hope.
He is making all things new. (Is. 43:19)