Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What really matters

Hello God.

It has been ten years since two planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers in New York and exploded, causing them to collapse, and planes hijacked and crashed in Washington killed nearly three thousand people in total. I imagine you remember.

A New York couple had recently got back from their honeymoon. The husband got up early for work that day and wrote a note for his new wife, who was still sleeping as he left the house. The note said:

'I love you more than I can say. Already looking forward to coming home.'

Of course, he never did, did he? He worked somewhere high up in one of the World Trade Centre towers and he died that day. There are so many stories like this that break your heart over and over. Hundreds of people knew that they were trapped and many, many of them used their phones to call someone that they loved to say goodbye and 'I love you' one more time. There are so many stories about the last conversations, missed calls, voices on answering machines. When faced with a situation like this, it seems that people wanted to connect with their loved ones before it was too late. It focused the mind on what was important and it turned out that what was important was other people.

I've no idea if people prayed, or if they turned their panicked attention to thoughts of what happens after death; I've no idea how many of those who died already knew you. I'm sure that just as it is said that there are no atheists on the battlefield, there were probably few on the upper floors of the North Tower as they watched the South Tower collapse as their own structure burned beneath them. I hope so. I hope that in extremis those people fell to their knees and acknowledged you. You would have been quick to respond.

I can't imagine how those people felt as they went through all that. I can't imagine the terror and the confusion. I can't imagine how awful it must have been to take a call from my husband both knowing that he was going to die. Perhaps worse than that might be to have missed a call from him and play the voicemail later. To know that someone you loved was trapped and terrified and minutes from death. It must have been more than we are built to cope with.

What words would be enough for a fleeting call like that? What could I say? And if there is something that needs to be said urgently in a situation like that then I am sure that that thing should be said anyway. Perhaps many times over. My God, if anyone I love goes out one day and doesn't come back, or goes to sleep one night and doesn't wake up in the morning I so much want to be sure that they would know what I would say if I'd had that phone call.

What made me think most was that those dreadful minutes crystallised to those unfortunate people exactly what was important. They wanted to connect with someone. How much they earned didn't matter, and what they were wearing didn't matter, how fat or thin they were didn't matter, and their job title didn't matter. Nothing did, except whatever thoughts of death and beyond they had, and the need to reach out to family.

I do not compare my experiences with those I've just described, but on the same continuum is what happened to me as I waited for Katy to come back from surgery some weeks ago. I left her in the anaesthetic room and cried for a while, had something to eat and then settled in a little courtyard in the hospital to wait for the call to say that she was in recovery. Bryan paced back and forth and I sat and tried to read, tried to pray, tried to relax my shoulders. There had been a few issues about jobs and finances and so on hanging over us for a week or two and we hadn't addressed them because we were already pretty stressed out about Katy's impending surgery and some hassles we'd had with operation dates and so on. As we waited I suggested we talk about what we were going to do to sort things out.

I sat, Bryan paced, we waited. 
It might have seemed a funny time to initiate a difficult conversation but actually it was the perfect time for us. The reason it was a good time was because at that very moment, it didn't matter at all. All that mattered was how Katy's surgery was going. How long it would be before she was back. Whether she was alright. Income and job security and pension plans didn't seem remotely significant in comparison with our lovely, small, vulnerable four year old daughter and surgery to her neck.

We didn't solve any problems that day but we worked out a plan. The funny thing (not funny ha ha, funny peculiar) is since that day a month ago Katy regained consciousness, was discharged from hospital, recovered beautifully and has now started school, and as the concern over her receded, other worries then crept back into my head. My in extremis prioritisation has become muddled again. All of a sudden the things that seemed trifling have assumed a magnitude that oppresses me again. I can see it and it makes no sense.

You are important. You are most important. My family are important. Other people are important.

That's about it. You'll take care of it all, won't you?

'Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.'

Matthew 6:33 (Good News Translation)

The clue is in that verse. Be concerned above everything else. Seek ye first.

You come first. Then there are important things and there are less important things. You can take care of them all. I suppose if I were more mature, walking so closely with you, if perhaps I had the mindset of St Paul, I might have been able to write today about how Katy's surgery did not alarm me in the slightest because I had such faith that you were in control. That there was you, and no other important things. That on that day her situation was just as supremely insignificantly not-worrying as our (lack of) financial stability. If smaller worries took a back seat then perhaps one day I can learn to push my larger worries behind me as well. Did St Paul have a poorly four year old daughter who needed surgery? Surely some things are still important and worthy of worry? Aha. I'm coming unstuck.

That's too much for now. I'll come back to it.

I suppose all I'm telling you about today was a little re-ordering that went on in my head back on that day outside the children's ward. It's no more than a step in the right direction, I guess. Maybe I've even regressed from that little revelation in the last weeks as life has taken on a more normal pattern.

As I talk to you now I realise how far I have to go. I feel as if I was an excited child who came bursting into her Daddy to say, 'Look! Look what I've learned!' and you're saying, 'That's great! But there's more! So much more...' 

Thankyou that you are a God who cares about our little steps forward and forgives our steps in the other direction. Thankyou that you can rummage through the mess in my head, find a nugget of Good Intention and hold it aloft in celebration even if it's covered in filth.

Thankyou that you love me no matter what.

Help me to get my priorities straight. And then keep them there.


  1. Very well said. Before "be anxious for nothing," Paul says, "the Lord is near." There's the key--knowing His presence is near even when it seems far. How often I get muddled when I forget that!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great to meet you!

  2. Thanks Ginger. I'm thinking that's worth remembering. He is near.


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