To begin this article let me be clear about a few things. I have never fought in a war, lived through the depression, had my home blown away by a tornado or a hurricane, been fired from a job (at least not so far!), but I have experienced some difficult days in my life. Each of these days is memorable for different reasons and I am convinced that marvelous lessons have been learned in each of those difficult days.
I remember vividly as a young boy attending my grandfather’s funeral. To me, Paw-Paw was bigger than life. I’ll tell you more about him in another post.
I remember the day Laura and I lost a son. Up to that point it was the saddest and most difficult day of my life. Even though it’s been nearly thirty years ago it still hurts when I think about it.
I remember the day we learned that Laura had cancer. It was devastating to hear those words from the doctor that first time.
I remember the day that we learned that Laura’s cancer had returned nearly ten years after the first battle. During those two difficult periods of our life we learned much about faith and about prayer. We were strengthened and encouraged greatly by our families as well as by the people of God. We praise God that she has been in remission now for nearly seven years!
I remember the night we received word that mom had passed away. We knew that she had been ill, but we did not expect her to go when she did. We will forever be thankful for the way she poured her life into ours, and how she stood beside our dad for nearly fifty years.
I remember those weeks spent with my dad before he passed away. I remember the moment I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I remember the terrible feeling of knowing that the man who I respected and loved more than life itself was no longer going to be with us. As so many of you who have experienced loosing your parents will understand, it hurts deeply to this day.
I vividly remember this day seventeen years ago. That Wednesday morning in 1995 was a beautiful day. The weather was picture perfect in Oklahoma City. I had arrived at my office early that morning to spend some time studying before making some visits to people who needed to be visited.
Shortly before 9:00A.M. I made a phone call to my friend, Gary Bradley in Huntsville, Alabama. We were talking about our families, about enjoyable times we had shared in the past, and about an upcoming seminar.
At 9:02 I heard a noise that sounded familiar to me. Gary heard the noise over the phone from 700 miles away! He asked me what the noise was, and I told him it was probably one of the units in our building kicking on.
Our call was interrupted when one of secretaries knocked on my door and reported that there had been an explosion downtown.
We turned on a TV and saw the devastating pictures of the Murrah Federal building shortly after the bombing. We were ten miles away and we heard the blast! It was later reported that people heard or felt that blast from up to 55 miles away.
That moment, 9:02 changed the lives of people around the world forever. There were 168 people killed (from a three month old baby to a 74 year old), more than 680 others injured, and thousands of lives directly touched by this horrible event. As I think about that day I am reminded of several lessons we learned.
We saw man at his worst. The people who committed this terrible crime spent years planning this act of hatred. They intentionally took the lives of a number of children. There are few things I can think of that are worse than hurting children. Sin causes people to do unthinkable deeds.
We saw man at his best. We watched people volunteer and risk their own lives to attempt to save others. We saw people put their lives on hold to reach out to those who were hurting. We saw a nation of people offer support, prayers, and strength.
We saw the heart of community. The people of Oklahoma City, the state of Oklahoma, and the nation came together to help one another during this terrible crisis. People gave of their time, their money, their resources, and their lives. People everywhere prayed for those whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy.
We saw the meaning of forgiveness. As long as I live I will never forget hearing a wonderful Christian woman respond to a reporter who asked her, “How can you not have hatred in your heart for those who have done this to you.”
Susan Walton who endured numerous surgeries due to injuries she received in the bombing responded by saying, “You can’t go to heaven if you have hatred in your heart!!!” That is what it means to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
We saw the church at it’s best. More than one million dollars poured in from members of the church around the country. Special prayer services were held in many churches for the victims and families. Churches called asking what supplies were needed and what are other ways they could help. God's people reached out with the love and the heart of Jesus in ways that spoke volumes to the world.
That day stands out in my mind as a day I will never forget. I still think about the sweet woman I spoke with at length a couple of days after the bombing who lost two grandchildren that day. She was hurting and the pain on her face was difficult to watch. I prayed with her that day and for her numerous times through the years.
I now understand that one never fully gets over losing loved ones like that. I know that there are many people who continue to suffer physically and emotionally because of that tragedy.
I also understand more than ever that God is good and that He will help us pick up our lives and live them out in His service.
Father, today we pray for those who were affected by that tragic event seventeen years ago. We pray for those who are still hurting physically and emotionally. We pray that You would help us to be people who forgive. Help us dear God, to continually call upon You in our need and help us to reach out to people around us who are hurting. In the Name of our Savior we pray, Amen.