Years ago, one of our church members led a genealogy workshop. Although this was a passion of hers, she acknowledged that most people aren’t interested in doing this kind of research. Given that, she had one word of advice for us: “If you do nothing else, write down the story of your experience on September 11, 2001.” She gave us questions to guide that story: Where did you live? What were you doing when you heard the news? What were those days immediately afterward like? How did the event affect you and the way you lived? What did you learn from living through that experience? “Years from now,” she told us, “your first-person account will matter to someone.”
The beginning of the book of Joel references such a thing that happened, causing widespread devastation, ruin, and deep sorrow (v. 2). Although the writer gives us no background about the event, whatever happened was significant enough that they would tell their children about it, and their children would pass those stories on to future generations. Joel then encourages the people to wake up (v. 5) and see their world as it really is: vulnerable, stripped bare, and overwhelmed with grief.
If we live long enough, we’ll all face experiences and events of such a magnitude that they stop us in our tracks: the 9/11 terrorist attacks, devastating hurricanes, mass shootings, the COVID-19 pandemic. These wake us up, remind us of our own vulnerability, and momentarily paralyze us with fear or anxiety. They can also wake us up to opportunities we might otherwise have missed, opportunities to consider what really matters to us, what we may have taken for granted, and how interconnected we all are. These wake-up calls can lead to greater awareness. They can even re-order our lives and priorities.
What event(s) in my life have helped me wake up to the unseen gifts at hand?
Holy God, help me to see the events in my life, both big and small, as opportunities for deeper awareness, connection, and growth. Amen.