I recently read the book To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury. I had a week at the family farm for our annual campout, so I took the opportunity to settle down and read a book for fun. I am so glad I did!
The setting of this book was around (past and present) the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I went there once, back in college. After reading this book, I want to go again! I remember when the bombing happened. It opened my eyes and got my attention because my dad worked for Social Security at the time and I realized that even that was now not a "safe" job.
At the time that I visited the memorial, I was most stunned by all the empty chairs. Each chair represents a person who lost their life in the attack. There are so many chairs. So many lives lost. So many lives changed for the rest of their time here on this earth.
As I was reading the book, the first thing that made me want to go back to the memorial was the Survivor Tree. This tree was burned and filled with shrapnel from that terrible day. Everyone thought it was dead. But the next year, to their surprise, they noticed buds on the tree again. Despite the devastation and loss of that day, the tree survived. It still stands as a memorial to all those who have survived; whether you survived the bombing, the death of a loved one, or a horrible diagnosis. This tree is for survivors. Though it doesn't feel like it every day, I am a survivor. My kids are survivors. We've faced our worst fears and worst moments and come out the other side. Different, yet stronger. More resilient. More faithful. More trusting in the One who holds our days in His hands. It's not the path any of us would have chosen, but the Lord has brought us through.
But that part that kept resounding in my heart over and over again were the Gates of Time. There are two of these gates that serve as the entrance to the Memorial. One is stamped 9:01. The moment before the blast. When life was normal. Beautiful. Innocent. Unmarred. Between the two walls is the Reflecting Pool. It represents not only the time of the bomb and the moment life here was changed, but also shows the reflection of all those changed by this startling event. (Because, in one way or another, each American alive at the time was changed.) The second wall reads 9:03. The time that we realized life would never be the same. The moment that healing began.
One of the main themes of the book was that we have a choice: we can live in the past, in 9:01, wishing that we could change it. That it didn't happen the way we didn't want. We can choose to live in 9:02. The moment of the attack. We can relive that over and over and never move on. Never get better. Or, we can live in 9:03. The healing. We can reflect on what happened, grieve the losses, but choose to keep moving. Keep hanging on to God. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep choosing healing, even when it's hard.
Oh, how I want to live in 9:03! But the truth is, it's a lot easier to live in 9:01 and 9:02. Living in 9:03 takes work. It means being selfless. It means letting go of anger and bitterness. It means learning that fine balance of living with deep joy and deep sorrow at the same time. It means being honest and asking for help. It means counseling. Medicine. Being vulnerable. Sometimes it even means completely changing everything about your life. It means believing and living like you believe that the healing is coming. And it's worth it. None of that is easy. None of that comes naturally. It requires faith. Real friends. A loving family. A loving church family. It requires openness. It requires time.
One of the ways the Lord is leading me to live in 9:03 is giving me dreams again. Nothing earth shattering or world changing, but it makes me feel more alive and more human to be dreaming again. I've even started keeping a Dreams journal. It has dreams for my children, our school, and myself. Some are dreams I think are pretty common to most (for my children to be friends, to have more creativity in homeschooling, to stay debt free, etc.) Some are more like bucket-list type items (sky diving, writing a book, seeing more National Parks.) And some are pretty pie in the sky type dreams (an around the world cruise that we can count for school hours, spending a year doing road school around the US, making a living by traveling around and speaking, etc.) I have no deluded notions that any of these dreams will come true, but it feels really good to get them down on paper. I am writing them down and laying them at Christ's feet, asking Him to do whatever He will with them. Change them. Refine them. Ditch them. Bring them to life. I have no idea what He will do, but I am thankful He's helping me look to the future and dream big things again.
Are you struggling to see how it's even possible to see past 9:01 or 9:02, let alone live in 9:03? Don't fear, that's pretty normal. For starters, pick up a Bible. Read the Psalms. Read through the Gospels. Just read. And as you read, ask the Lord to speak. To show you that He truly is in control. That He has a plan. And that You can trust Him. Second, find a truly Bible preaching church and get connected. Whether it's through Sunday School. a small group, or a Bible Study, get connected. Be honest. Share your life with others. Allow them to speak Truth to you. Pray over you. Support you. Help you. Third, find a true Christian counselor. Call up the Laity Care Center at Calvary. It's a great place to start! Be honest and get the help you need.
It is possible to live in 9:03. To live in the healing of whatever has changed your life. But you can't do it alone. And you can't do it without Christ in your life. It's a fight and a struggle some days, but the fight is worth it! I can tell you that from experience.