O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

In Remembrance: Coloring and Context

You know what image from 9/11 sticks with me the most? It’s not the footage of the planes, the burning buildings, the destruction, the ash-covered firefighters, or the chaos of the streets. Yes, I think of those things when I think of September 11th — I won’t and can’t forget them — but I think of them in a very different context.

That context is the carpeted floor of my living room at the time, where, after work, I watched news footage that evening with my wife and my 17-month-old daughter. My daughter and I were lying on our tummies, on the floor, scribbling in a coloring book together.

She was facing away from the TV, oblivious to what was happening on the screen and in Lower Manhattan. I was coloring a kitty cat’s face, looking up at the TV every once in awhile, and trying not to cry.


When I think of 9/11, I think of that moment, with her. I don’t know what it says about me, psychologically or emotionally, but I do know that it helps me put all the controversy that has erupted in relation to the anniversary this year — the proposed mosque/community center, the threatened (and now, apparently, suspended) Koran burnings from a church in Florida, the Muslim cabbie stabbing in late August — in a different kind of context.


It’s not in a context of hate or intolerance or us vs. them. It’s not in a context of religion or geo-politics. But it IS in the context of our future, and of my daughter’s innocence during that moment, and of how we’ve tried to raise her in the years since, and of what dreams and hopes I have for her in the years to come (as well as for my son, who was born a couple years later).

And in that context, I keep reminding myself of these three things, echoing my friend Sarah Cunningham in this excellent post from a few weeks ago:

1. Jesus said the entire Law was summed up in the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


2. Jesus told his followers to “love your enemies.”

3. Jesus told his followers to “pray for those who persecute you.”

As Christians, regardless of how we feel about Muslims, the mosque, the Koran, the pastor in Florida, the terrorists, the Tea Party, the president’s religion, or the sanctity or secular-ness of Ground Zero, I am pretty sure that one of those three options applies.

Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Pray for your persecutors.

All of those options are about love, grace and healing. I’m enough of a realist to know that such lofty concepts aren’t always possible among humans — especially humans operating within a complex world of hatred and distrust — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be something we strive for.


And that doesn’t mean they can’t be attitudes I try to adopt today, in remembrance, as a Christian. As a father. As an example to the little girl with the coloring book and the impossibly blond hair, for whom I grieved on September 11, 2001, as I took note of the world she’d be growing up in.


For what it’s worth, Sarah Cunningham (mentioned above) spent two weeks at Ground Zero right after the attacks, as a volunteer supporting rescue efforts. She describes this in her book, Picking Dandelions: Discovering Eden Among Life’s Weeds, and Zondervan is giving away the full electronic version of the book starting next week. It’s worth picking up for the Ground Zero section alone. Details here.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 8:44 am

The three options you list, above, are definitely attitudes we need to adopt in our lives. Thanks for the reminder!

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posted September 11, 2010 at 9:00 am

Shelley, I keep saying that same thing. Doing it, however…, not so much.
Jason, I’ve been having a particularly hard time this year and the picture of you, on the floor coloring a kitty cat’s face with your little girl was just what I needed. Thanks.

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Deborah Dean-Ware

posted September 11, 2010 at 9:01 am

I appreciate this so much because I, too, see the world through the lens of being a parent. So often as I watch my young son I feel hope and distress, relief and dread, rejuvenation and fatigue all in the same moment. I celebrate the progress and grieve the continuing hateful rhetoric and violence. What a paradox we live in. . . I pray that we can keep love in our hearts while we work for justice for all of God’s creation.

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Tom Degan

posted September 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have a habit of videotaping (now DVDing) major news stories. I have in my archives too many hours to count of videotapes and DVDs pertaining to the deaths of Richard Nixon, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, or the impeachment of President Clinton, or the inauguration of the first African American president on January 20, 2009. I do this because it is a wonderful way of personally archiving history as it happens.
Late on the evening of September 11, 2001, my then-girlfriend, who knew my habits better than anyone, said to me, “You haven’t taped any the coverage. Why?”
“Because”, I replied, “I NEVER want to look at this again.”
And so it goes. Hi Ho.
Tom Degan

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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted September 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

loving your enemies in this instance is also part of losing our life/picking up the cross to follow Jesus – and I get it, carrying a cross ain’t fun at all. It’s far more fun to win. but I do believe the way of Jesus is better, albeit painful.

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Single and Sane

posted September 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

For followers of Christ, those things – loving neighbors, loving enemies, and praying for those who persecute us – should come automatically. It’s tragic that they don’t.

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posted September 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Great post. Thanks for writing it.

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Kevin Leggett

posted September 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for the post Jason (and Sarah). It brought something worthing thinking about to the table.

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Rob the Rev

posted September 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

How many people know that there were two Muslim prayer rooms or mosques in the World Trade Center, one in each tower, on 9-11 when it became ground zero?
Muslims and Islam Were Part of Twin Towers’ Life
In Addition to the Mosque in Ground Zero’s Tower 2, Muslims Also Prayed at the Top of Tower 1

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