Pressure washing a deck takes forever. You move just inches at a time. It’s tedious. It’s loud. You don’t see real results for hours. Everything gets soaked. You’ll learn the hard way that a pressure washer can rip into your skin if you’re not careful. But once you’ve started, you can’t stop, or you’re left with a glaringly half-finished project. So you keep your hand on the trigger, stretch out the aching muscles in your arms and back, and you keep washing. Even if it was supposed to be a day off from work. Even if it was supposed to be a day of relaxing.
But on September 11, 2001, it was just the distraction I needed. Just three hours earlier, we’d gotten a phone call from a friend telling us to turn on the television. We turned it on just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.
You know. It was THAT moment. The one where the nation collectively realized we were under attack. Such a thing was such an alien concept to us, but it was unfolding on the TV right in front of our eyes. Then the 3rd plane, the collapsing towers, the 4th plane, the grounding of all air traffic, the video footage of people wandering the streets covered in gray ash. So much death and destruction. So much uncertainty as we were all wondering, “Is it over yet?”
I couldn’t take it. At least not head on. I piped the TV news through my outdoor speakers, grabbed a pressure washer and began to wash my deck. It was something to do. For the next few hours, I soaked myself in splattered dirt and grime, while the events kept unfolding through the speakers I could just hear above the sound of the pressure washer motor.
But all the noise and water and grime weren’t enough to drown out the shocking truth: That our illusions of safety and complacency had been shattered. Suddenly, all the things that seemed so important in our daily lives seemed so small. And evil seemed so imminent and massive.
Now, 12 years later. I wonder if I’m still seeking distraction from the reality that we are all vulnerable. I wonder if we all in some way are still seeking distraction – through our iPhones, our twitter feeds, our playlists, the latest movie releases, today’s celebrity tabloid fodder, anything, ANYTHING that seems harmless and trivial.
True, we can’t live in fear. True, we can’t let the schemes of sick-minded terrorists change how we live.
But we cannot ignore evil, either. It is out there. It is real. It is poison gas in Syria. It is children sold into slavery. It is the genocide of Christians in Egypt. It’s children who are the victims of abuse. It is both overseas and in our very backyards. It is just as imminent and massive as it was on 9/11. We cannot afford to be distracted.
I’m not talking about political action or military action. I’m talking about each one of us. How each of us should wake up and recognize that evil exists and that we should fight it at every opportunity. How does the saying go? “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
I like how the Apostle Paul says it better in Ephesians:
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
We need to be the people God designed us to be. To “do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (our) God.” (Micah 6:8).
The alternative is to do nothing.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? – The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats.
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