The whole scripture: Hebrews 8:10-13
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
What is the worst thing that has ever happened to me? What is the story I tell myself about myself based on that event? Do I find revisiting the event healing, or hurtful?
What is the ill that has come out of the September 11 attacks (for us personally, for survivors, for our nation, for moderate Muslims, among others)? What is the good? Can God bring good out of every ill?
Pick one person, or composite person (say: a firefighter, a janitor in the Twin Towers, or the person sitting in row 11 of one of the flights) who died in the attacks, and pray for them, and for all the lives theirs touched.
"For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." - Hebrews 8:12
The memory of the national tragedy that befell us on September 11, 2001 turns 16 years old today. If it were a person, it could drive. It is nearly an adult, no longer a child anymore. How do we ourselves grow up in commemorating it?
The shorthand for September 11 is: Never Forget. Bumper stickers proclaim it. There is a price to forgetting history: some say, we are doomed to repeat it. But this wisdom is primarily for the perpetrators of violence, so that we might not forget what lives in our shadow side. How about when we are the victims of violence? Is there a price to remembering?
We used to believe that "talking it out" would help us heal from trauma, as we gained control of the narrative, finding our grief or fear lessened with each exposure. But new research shows that revisiting difficult things that have happened to us can actually re-traumatize us. Our bodies hold on, and feel themselves newly in danger as we re-expose ourselves to the story.
There is a young woman in my previous church. Her father was a NYFD firefighter who spent days helping to put out the blaze in the Twin Towers. He was rewarded by contracting esophageal cancer years later, as a result of breathing toxic fumes. He died three years ago. A loving and dutiful daughter, she still goes to all the commemoration ceremonies, to honor him and to stand in for him, but each one takes a huge emotional toll.
When will it stop? She asked me once. When can I be done?
There is a price to remembering.
God has a long memory, but does not practice remembering the harms we have done to Her. Jesus invited us to forgive our enemies and to pray for them. It's another path to liberation from the pain of our past.
God, help me to remember what needs re-membering, and to forget what deserves forgetting, so that I can live fully in the present. Amen.