On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, you don’t need me to tell you that we live in a world where bad things happen to good people. The recent earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Ida, the pandemic, and every other natural disaster tell us that nature can be cruel. The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all the terrible things in the news tells us that human history is tragic. Human nature is fickle. And life is short.
So, how should we live? How shall we answer the poet Mary Oliver’s question: “What are you going to do with your one, wild, precious life?” Our choices essentially are these: Detach and diminish; Delight and devour; or devote and depend.
We can detach and diminish. We can detach from the world — and distance ourselves from its impurity and pain. By refusing to participate in the world, we can keep aloof and unscarred. We can be neutral and wish others well. Or we can be cynical and not care about anything or anyone. We can keep ourselves insulated from life and others so that we float above it all, but is that really living?
We can delight and devour. We can delight in the world — and devour the very best of its many pleasures. We can participate in the world selectively: Minimizing our pain and maximizing our pleasure. We can be consumers; connoisseurs of the good life. Who doesn’t want that? But is that the right way to live when so many are hurting?
We can devote and depend. We can devote ourselves to the world – and dedicate ourselves to participating in the fullness of life; in all its pleasures and pain. We can do so by depending on God to help us live all that we experience, good and bad, and we can depend on God to help us as we try to live humane, holy lives by being good in a sometimes bad world.
That’s the life Jesus lived – and that’s the life he wants us to live: You’re the salt of the earth. Don’t keep yourself isolated in a salt shaker. Participate decently, lovingly in the world so that you season what’s bad with what’s good. Like a lamp, you were created to shine and share God’s light. So don’t hide what you’ve got and who you are. Get busy doing what God put you on this earth to do: Bless, forgive, share, reconcile, and love.
Yes, we need to take breaks and rest. No, we can’t help everyone. We can’t save the world. Besides, we don’t have to: God already has. We don’t have to do everything. But we can – and should – do something.
Yes, God wants us to enjoy life and have what we need. God absolutely wants you to have a happy life. But God also and equally wants you to live a good life.
Events like 9/11 should make us sad, but they should not make us hateful. The hurts, which come to us all, can harden us or they can open us. Suffering can make us withdraw, becoming bitter. Christ calls us, though, to stay salty. Work with God to heal so your broken heart can become a better heart: one that is more compassionate to those who suffer because you have suffered.
Jesus, who suffered for us on the cross, suffers with us today. His broken, beautiful heart can heal yours. He has been to hell and back. His love can get you through your nightmare. His healing can resurrect you. His will is to shepherd all of us into God’s Easter kingdom where healing happens, forgiveness flows, and love reigns.
God’s kingdom comes when you forgive someone who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven; when you stand up for someone who’s beaten down; when you share something with someone who doesn’t have anything. Blessings flow, salvation happens, and peace prevails when you follow Jesus by going where Jesus goes and doing what Jesus does.
You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be willing. Willing to try and willing to depend on the Holy Spirit to show you the way. That’s faith. Faith happens as you look to Christ. The good news is that this is the best way to live. May that life be yours today and may God continue to bless America and every nation by leading us into the love, justice, and peace God seeks to give us all.