In the valley of the shadow

Reflections on the trauma of 11 September 2001
(reprinted on the anniversary of that horrid day)

by Ken Sehested, with Kyle Childress

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become, she that was great
among the nations! . . . She weeps bitterly in the night. . . .” (Lamentations 1:1)

Late yesterday morning—midway through a long car trip to visit my Mom and several mentors—I awoke in the home of a good friend, in the Nacogdoches, Texas, to the news repeatedly described in media accounts as the “horrific” events in New York City and Washington, D.C. Parties yet unnamed and unknown (though suspected) hijacked our own agents of affluence to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, twin symbols of global economic and military dominance.

As the details and graphic visual images flood our ears and eyes, “horrific” seems an understated refrain, and we are left repeating it, over and again, to underscore that which is too terrible for words. Knowing that my first-born and my beloved sister-in-law lived less than a mile from Manhattan’s southern shore made the shock all the more poignant.

Here I sit, in the oldest city in Texas, reflecting via ancient Scripture on the archetypal drama of human savagery. The shedding of blood begun by Cain—against his brother Abel, early in Genesis 4—was geometrically escalated, by chapter’s end, in Lamech’s threat to avenge his personal honor seventy-times-seven. God’s refusal of revenge—indeed, the Divine prohibition against human vengeance—was ignored with impunity then no less than now. It is an old story. But there is another story, indeed a counter-story, which can and must be told by the believing community.

What may we say, dare we say, in the face of such horror? Is there any hope, any healing, any harvest of mercy to be had?

There are, of course, reminders both of pastoral insight and prophetic challenge demanding our attention.

—continue reading “In the Valley of the Shadow