Ten years ago, I was a student in seminary. I had moved to grad school, dropped out, moved home, and then moved to attend seminary.
I remember I was in a theology class (although I can’t remember which one). I remember that the admissions guy (who is now on our church staff and I still work for him like I did then) was running in and out of the classroom next door. I remember the seminary phone was ringing and the secretary wasn’t answering it; she, too, was in the classroom next door. I remember watching all of that from my seat in the second row of the classroom.
I remember we finally took a break. I headed straight into the next classroom. I remember watching some footage and some live shots of what was happening in New York.
I remember heading for the women’s room – there was a couch and little lounge area in there, but I bypassed those and huddled in the corner of the bathroom floor, sobbing quietly and trying to catch my breath.
I remember the sudden clarity that I had that God had directed all of my steps in the previous four years:
Sending my acceptance of admission to the graduate theatre program at Carnegie Mellon instead of Yale. Then, moving to Pittsburgh instead of New Haven. Getting drunk for the one and only time in my life, making an utter fool of myself in front of an older classmate, who then suggested I accompany him to the church where he was working as lighting designer. Working at that church and realizing I didn’t believe what they did. The moment in the sunshine on the back steps of the church where the idea of seminary was planted in my heart. Having a horrible time at the last few months of that church and breaking up with the man I thought would marry. Moving home no longer believing in love, happiness or God. Working in the local theaters, finally sneaking back into a church where I was utterly unknown. Meeting with my childhood pastor. Deciding to go to seminary in Cincinnati instead of accepting a job at NYU.
It was that last thing that did it for me. I remember realizing that had I chosen to take the theatre job at NYU instead of moving to Cincinnati for school… I would have been there.
I would have just stepped off the ferry from NJ, or would have been changing trains beneath the World Trade Center.
I remember learning that my baby brother (who in reality was 23) was on a U.S. Coast Guard boat patrolling New York Harbor with a massive machine gun strapped to his chest. I remember talking to him about what he saw and experienced at Ground Zero as an armed forces first responder.
I remember the silence on campus for the next few days. I remember being so proud of our President and feeling how much pain he must be in. I remember the first time an airplane flew over campus and how everything outside came to a stand still.
But what I remember most was my utter unshakeable faith that God is who He says He is in His Word. Thirteen months prior I had decided to attend seminary, searching for God. I wasn’t sure He was real. I needed proof. I needed to study and learn and read and meditate.
I remember thinking that God was still there, even in the midst of such tragedy.
Ten years later, as our church honored this day and the brave men and women who serve in various ways, I still remember that God is there. He is closer than we think. And He will always be here for us.
May none of us ever forget that.
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