In a sense, we are all survivors
Those who have witnessed death in large numbers–whether through natural disaster, accident, or war–have, I’m sure, experienced flashbacks to those occasions while following the news of the nation’s recent tragedy, the horrific terrorist attacks.
A Viet Nam veteran, I know that I have–particularly when hearing the survivors recount what they saw, what they did, how they felt. Such experiences remain with one for a lifetime and play a major formative role in the evolution of the survivor’s personality.
This particular tragedy is unique. In a sense, we are all survivors of this one. Glued to our television sets, we emitted a collective gasp as we watched the planes bore into the sides of the landmark skyscrapers. Together, our hearts have been stirred.
Consequently, it is not surprising that many are struggling with how to make sense of this horror which seems so senseless and unimaginable. For the sake of our spiritual and mental health, then, I think it is reasonable to ask: where do we go from here?
From personal experience, I know that such healing is found only by looking our terrors in the face and putting them into God’s hands. I pray that we, collectively, shall do that. Following are some verses which speak of my experiences. I hope they will bless you, dear readers, during this difficult time.
ONE VETERAN’S SEARCH FOR PEACE
While the curdling sirens wail,
gangly youth from hooches sail,
with terrified and muffled screams,
sleepy from escapist dreams.
(Mother, dad, and baby sis
give a hug and good-bye kiss.)
The mortal youth, quite tragically,
fall apart unnaturally–
arms, legs, and torsos torn,
(“See why God is a coat outworn!”)
the head severed, the entrails flung.
( “Jesus Christ is a song unsung!”)
Deceitful death stalks and screams,
(“Welcome to Viet Nam!”)
blasts the earth as warm blood streams.
(“Aren’t you glad you come?”)
A schism between feeling and fact
slams the mind with numbing impact–
a psychic ligament torn.
(“Is it because God is a coat outworn?”)
The stench of gathered corpses
falls cinders on the nostrils.
Staring through telescopic tunnels
of sad, surreal realities,
he smoothes Steve’s eyelids when he dies.
The atheist soldier somberly
curls up despairingly
and profoundly sighs.
Pondering the grisly events,
the heart-rending incidents,
he tries but cannot cry.
Stateside, as the desperate decades fly,
the mind–resolute, intractable–
relentlessly strives and strives
to make sense of some kind
of that perceived as senseless–
the slaughter unimaginable,
the slaughter grotesque and horrible,
nightmares pummeling the mind.
In just the gentlest whisper
the Holy Spirit intones:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Words a loved one shared once
slip from the pocket of memory:
“There’s peace to be found in Jesus.”
Terrified by irresistible tugs of suicide,
the atheist cracks for the very first time
the occluded windows of his mind:
“If there’s any chance, dear God,
that you do exist,
let me know you now
for I do not want to die!”
The invisible Presence touches him!
He jumps–and cringes, awaiting his blows,
then smiles serenely as he receives
an amazing and soothing,
crescen doing wave of peace.
Like the long-lost piece of a jigsaw puzzle
or the long-sought cure of some dread disease,
the solution beautifully snaps into place!
The scene changes as the former atheist
in wonder gazes, finding himself among
brilliant, colorful gardens
of multifarious blossoms.
“I am the rose of Sharon; a lily of the valleys.”
Ecstatically, out loud he laughs
as voluptuous, long waves
of serenity sweep through him
and his guilt burden slides away.
“My peace I give you; I do not give to you
as the world gives. Do not let your hearts
be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The former atheist
falls gratefully to his knees
in that holy place and prays.