September 11th. This is a day that will be forever etched in the minds and hearts of Americans young and not-so-young-anymore. On this day 12 years ago our country experienced a tragedy unlike any other in decades. It did not hit simply close to home – it hit the heart of home. We faced terrible loss of both civilian lives and the lives of the heroes who tried to rescue them. Today those same heroes, who managed to make it out of the disaster alive, are continuing to deal with the pain and consequences of that day as cancers and diseases begin to rear their ugly heads. Children without parents, spouses without their beloveds, a country reeling from the shock of a vulnerability they didn’t know had been exposed – that day is tainted with pain and sorrow, and I would dare to say, a lingering fear and hatred.
This morning I read a Facebook status that said “9/11, we remember. Never forget your anger from that day!” and it was met with thunderous agreement from the myriad of people who commented below. And my heart sank. For our country, for those who will unfairly shoulder accusatory glances and unjust assumptions because of their race or religion, and for the people who are so clearly still fumbling and blindly feeling their way through the black caves of unforgiveness; waiting for time to heal their festering and infecting wounds. But it won’t, because anger is a poison that time cannot draw out, and in fact the only thing that time does to anger is give it roots.
Time will stop you, wherever you are at the moment of your anger, and dig it’s bony fingers deeply inside the soil of your soul – and it will stay there as a living and breathing monument for as long as you refuse to weed it. Soon, it will grow branches, tiny and vein like they will reach into the smallest fissures of our hearts and lives, and slowly the poison of that anger will make its way through the roots into those offshoots, and it will spread as far as it can. Satan knows this. He intends it. Those voices you hear that justify your anger? They are purposefully planted fertilizer for hatred, and anger is nothing but hatred’s more widely embraced pseudonym. No one would go around and declare how hateful they are, but angry? That’s far more socially acceptable.
In her book, 31 Days to Lovely: A journey of forgivenss, a dear friend of mine writes, “Satan seduces our masochism. He seeks to drug us with self-righteous anger… Where anger would have you curse, bless. Where pride would have you run and hide, stay and serve. Satan brings our enemies to mind as a weapon against our souls. He stirs the pot. Jesus calls us to love as he loves.” – Day Seven**
And oh, how he loves to divide and conquer in this world, both internally and socially.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t hate what happened on September 11th, or even that we shouldn’t hate the forces behind it.
“God warns us about our true enemy because he is skinless; we cannot see him… Who has wronged you after first being captured by a debilitating addiction or obsession? In some way, we have all fallen prey to the enemy’s lies. Maybe moving your fleshly enemies from the “offender” column to the “victim” side will give you more insight into how to pray for them.
When we stand up to our skinless enemy, we are happy to see our earthly enemies blessed. We delight in watching them freed from the curses placed upon them by the one enemy common to mankind. We trust that our earthly enemies will be brought to justice (we trust God with them), and we hope mercy and redemption for them (we pray for them). There is a place for your hatred, just make sure it’s not aimed at skin.” – 31 Days to Lovely, Day Eleven**
No one would argue that those men who inflicted so much pain on this country were deceived, were cursed. Satan found a foothold in the door of their misplaced faith, where they turned from Jesus, Satan held their gaze. They may have carried out the attack, but they were not the mastermind. They may have been the fleshly offender, but they were not the author.
If you feel hatred burning inside you over the events of that day, and many do, go ahead and hate the enemy of our souls. Be careful, however, that you do not become consumed with anger, and do not be deceived into thinking that holding that hatred and anger close will be the key to healing, because there is only one Great Healer who can do that. I dare say that upon our decision to loosen our grip on our pain and anger that God will not only heal us of our hurts, but that we will come to find our hatred has turned into compassion, and our hands, now free of their painful souvenirs, will be free to grasp our neighbors’ in prayer.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. – Luke 6:27-28
** Quotes from the book 31 Days to Lovely: A Journey of Forgiveness, by Sarah Hawkes Valente – If you struggle with forgiveness, I encourage you to check out Sarah’s beautiful devotional here!