Sunday, September 11, 2011

GOD Is Bigger Than The Boogeyman

Disclaimer: The title of this post is not meant to be irreverent. I am using it to make a point.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. It has been a decade, but I still remember that day all too clearly. I was not in New York. I was not in Washington. I was not on an airplane. I was in the tenth grade in a high school in Alabama and I was learning CPR from a Red Cross instructor during a Sports Medicine class when I found out.

I remember our instructor kept correcting himself as he stuttered and stumbled through his sentences before he finally just said that he was distracted by what he had heard on the radio on the way to our school that morning. I remember the feeling of disbelief, in the truest sense of the word. We all thought it was a mistake. Or that he had misheard the story. Or maybe even that he had been hearing about a movie plot and not realized it. But it was true. It was all too true. The rest of the school day was spent either watching the news footage on TV in shock, comforting each other in hushed whispers, or sitting in silence when the administration finally decided that we shouldn't watch the news coverage anymore because it was so upsetting. I remember that a friend of mine and I sat against the wall, underneath the dry erase board, watching the classroom TV that was turned to a news station. I remember him saying, to nobody in particular, "My dad was in New York this morning. He was supposed to fly from there to LA for more business meetings." I was the only one sitting immediately next to him, so I did the best I could to comfort him. I also remember him being called to the office because his mother was calling. I remember him coming back into the room as white as a sheet because his dad had missed his flight and was still in the airport in New York.

I haven't talked to this particular friend in years. We drifted apart during college, but I see updates from him on Facebook on occasion. It doesn't matter though. I will never forget the time we spent together that day sitting under the dry erase board. Other people have the kind of stories that will rip your heart out of your chest just to hear them tell it. Stories that make you tear up because you know the heartbreak they must feel every time they close their eyes and relive that moment. My story isn't like that. But I won't ever forget it. I don't think any of us will ever really forget any part of that day.

I was reflecting on this a little this week, and my mind wandered (as it often does) to something completely unrelated. I thought first of the fear we felt, then the anger, and then the need for answers, the need for God. That last one lead me through a whole new rabbit hole where I ended up thinking of a Veggie Tales song. For those of you of don't know, Veggie Tales is an animated children's show that uses talking vegetables (and fruits - Bob the Tomato, and tomato is a FRUIT), to tell children the stories of the Bible and explain the concepts of Christianity. They also throw in a little silliness on occasion. The particular song that I am referring to is called "God is Bigger than the Boogeyman". The main chorus tells us that "God is bigger than the Boogeyman. He's bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on TV. God is bigger than the Boogeyman and He's watching out for you and me." I thought about the words of that song and the comfort they bring to children. The thought that it doesn't matter if you are scared of the things that may go bump in the night, because God is there, He cares, and He is bigger than whatever scary, creepy things that the darkness has to offer. And then I began to think about what that means to us as adults.

Ten years ago, as a nation, we suffered. As individuals, some people lost loved ones and felt unbelievable heartbreak. To this day, as we fight a war that the events of that day set in motion, more individuals lose loved ones, and some soldiers lose pieces of themselves, literally. There is a lot to be upset about. There is a lot of hurt. There is a lot of anger. Many people bear the scars of bitterness on their hearts because of what has happened. Others fight off the bitterness, but can't escape the heartbreak. I can't really blame any of them. But that is why I think about that Veggie Tales song and what it means as we grow up. When we are no longer afraid of movie monsters or the things that go bump in the night, when our fears begin to revolve around loss, and sometimes even people, the concept still applies.

It doesn't matter what it is you are feeling. What it is you are suffering from, whether it is related to the tragedy 10 years ago, or something else that plagues your life, is irrelevant. God is bigger than it all. He is bigger than heartbreak. He is bigger than anger. He is bigger than addiction, bitterness, disease, depression, and suffering. And He cares.

Many people hear or see statements like that and ask why a God who cares so much would let something like that happen. I am not a theologian. I am not a Reverend, Pastor, Priest, or Seminary student. Having said that, this is my answer to the question: God gave each and every one of us free will. We have the power to choose to believe in Him. We can choose to believe in other things. We can choose to put ourselves first. We can choose different religions. He wants us to choose Him, that's why he gave us free will, but that means we make our own choices. The people who orchestrated the attacks 10 years ago chose to follow a different god. They chose to be radical extremists that follow a god who tells them to kill all those who believe differently. They chose to view the United States as their enemy. And then, those that didn't choose to be suicide bombers, chose to hide in the desert like cowards, using children strapped with explosives to their dirty work. That was the choice they made. Nobody made that choice for them. They made it themselves.

They made those choices because of what they believe about the god they choose to believe in. A god who tells them that killing themselves is commendable, as long as they take the infidels with them. My God doesn't tell me that. My God tells me to spread the message of His love to as many people as possible. He says that if I find someone who doesn't know His love, to tell them about Him. Yes, there are acts and sins I am supposed to hate, but the people who commit those sins and acts are the people who need to hear about His love the most. Once upon a time, yes, my God was known to smite people. Then the New Testament happened because God made himself into man (Jesus) and suffered on the cross. He did this to save humanity, most of which either didn't believe what He was saying was true, had never heard of Him, or were actively trying to kill Him because of the message he was spreading.

And to the people who choose to believe in that other god (whose name, I feel, is not even worth mentioning) and claim that he is more powerful than mine, I have this to say: My God has been known to stop the sun in sky in order for his followers to carry out his work (Joshua 10: 12-13). My God made Himself man and came to Earth, was born of a virgin and died on the cross, all to save us from our sins (the account of this is found in several books of the New Testament, known as the Gospels). And, personally, He has blessed me with a home, a great family, a wonderful husband, and so much more. And even in my times of despair, He comforts me. What has your god done for you lately?

That is what helps me when I think about the heart ache that was caused by the tragedy so many years ago. My God is bigger than the Boogeyman.

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Excused Absence

It's been two weeks since I've posted here and I thought I would write a little something to explain my time way. There are a few reasons though, so I thought I would explain myself using one of my favorite things: a numbered list.

1. I have rotator cuff tendonitis and a pulled muscle in my shoulder. This means that for a few days I basically couldn't blog because I was in such pain I couldn't lift my right arm, and typing with one hand is zero fun. Also, I don't do so well with some medicines and the muscle relaxer they gave me tends to make my world a little fuzzy for a couple of hours. It's just not safe to blog, or drive, in that condition. I am recovering nicely, according to my physical therapist anyway, and should be as good as new in no time.
-As a side note, I learned this week that there are actually several ways to spell tendonitis (e.g. tendinitis) that are all considered correct.

2. College football is back! My beloved MSU Bulldogs played last Thursday and I was a little distracted preparing myself for the game. I did attend. I clapped, I cheered, and my hurting shoulder was UNBELIEVABLY SORE the next day. It was totally worth it. Even during my 8 AM physical therapy appointment the next morning when I was both tired and sore, I still thought it was worth it. And for those of you rolling your eyes and thinking that couldn't have been good for me, my physical therapist knew I was going to the game and was fine with it.

3. I am now teaching English as a Second Language to adults through a program at my church. My students are wonderful and appreciative, and I have a great time teaching the class. It does mean, though, that I have to dedicate some of my time to planning out the lesson and preparing for class. And yes, I do refrain from taking my muscle relaxer until after class so I can be completely there for my students. They want to learn, they just need somebody who will teach them, and I don't want to let them down.

4. I am also a part of a program at church that helps tutor underprivileged kids in the area. The program is just getting started for this academic year, but I am kind of pumped. I will be tutoring the same child all through the academic year so that they can get to know me and will find it easier to ask me for help as time goes on. Again, though, this does mean that I have to spend time away from The Soap Box. And yes, I also refrain from taking the muscle relaxer before that as well. Just like my ESL students, the tutoring program is voluntary and the kids who participate in it want to learn, they just need someone to devote a little extra time and patience to help them out. I don't want to let them down, either.

So that pretty much covers it. As my shoulder gets better so that I can get back to normal (typing with two hands, even!), and not have to worry about when to take my meds around the rest of my schedule I shouldn't be missing from the blog as much. Until then, though, things might be a little intermittent.

Who am I kidding? Even when my shoulder is better, it's still college football season. I might be a little distracted for the next few months. That's just the reality of the situation.