Eleven years ago this day our nation was brutally assaulted by enemies that wished to do our nation great harm. It was a day of horror and disbelief, but also a day that ushered in a great sadness for the thousands of lost lives and the hundreds of thousands who had direct links with those who died. Losses of this magnitude cannot be totally comprehended, but we all felt some sense of loss in our own way.
Dealing with loss is the process of grieving. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her classic book On Death and Dying, gives the stages of grieving: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and finally 5) Acceptance. My first response to 9/11 was flat out denial. My wife and I were in Hilton Head, SC, on vacation and I refused to even respond to the first reports of disaster. My response was totally selfish: please, not on my vacation! My second major response was indeed anger. I was so angry at… but who was there to be angry at initially? Osama Bin Laden was not a known name to me, and so what I was left with was raw anger with no place to land. Bargaining was not one of my major responses until I saw the thousands of family members searching for missing loved ones. I bargained vicariously, asking God to have some father or brother or uncle just show up out of the bowels of the New York City subway system. Few, if any, did. I did join in the corporate and national depression. It was too sad, too awful, and I just wanted to sleep it off, imagine it gone. I was sad for days on end. And finally, acceptance.
Acceptance is ultimately an act of faith. It is a faith that says that God is still somehow in control in a terribly fallen and broken world. Faith in knowing that He will still turn this tragedy into triumph, make beauty from ashes. However, this does not take the pain away, it just makes it into something that is meaningful and surprisingly beautiful. Whatever your loss, whatever your drama, the final act of acceptance is the demonstration of humility to a Divine Will that in the final act give love, grace, and heaven itself. The Old Testament blessing sums it up best: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you; may He lift up His countenance and be gracious to you.” May He indeed…. Amen.