It is 2001. Everything is in order in the Powell household. There are 4 little boys ages 10, 8, 7, and 5. Daddy works and Mom stays home, homeschooling the boys, teaching them the catechism, tending the vegetable garden, and living a quiet life centered around church and family. All is safe and secure.
Mom is washing the breakfast dishes and the boys turn on the TV to catch the last bit of Blue’s Clues before lessons begin.
Fox News comes on. Momma, why is there smoke coming out of the building? I don’t know. They said it was an airplane. Could be. But how could a pilot not see that big building? I don’t know. Is that another airplane coming? Yes. Is Daddy in an airplane right now? Yes.
We watched together. We sat in a circle on the floor, held hands and prayed. I saw the futility of my intense efforts to shield my children from evil. I realized that there were no pat answers that made it all right.
My faith was not shaken, but my self-confidence was shattered.
I realized I had been a theological snob, thinking I understood God better and obeyed Him more fully than many others. That somehow that would shield my family. I had studied the Bible intensely. I thought I had figured God out, but in so doing had put Him in a neat little box. Instead I began to see that the Christian faith must, in humility, allow a place for stillness and mystery- a sense of resting in the presence of a God who like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia is not a tame Lion, but He is good.
Over the next few days I heard tales of firemen, burdened with gear, trudging up flights of stairs as others ran down, fleeing for their lives. I watched their funerals, mostly Roman Catholic. I wondered whether they could have made a sophisticated intellectual defense of the Christian faith. And I thought of the verse, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13.
Their sacrificial love reflected the incarnation of Jesus Christ. They were being His hands and feet in a hurting world. It struck me that God did not send us a theological treatise to master – He sent his Son to live among us. He came to love us and be loved by us, and to lay down His life for us, for the life of the world.
I began to grasp the power of the incarnation, and in so doing realized that understanding anything about God is just the beginning of life in Him. It is not enough in itself. I still love studying the Bible, for it is the word of God. But it is not God.
We serve a risen Lord, not a written book.
Our family changed that day and in the days that followed. Within the next year we took in foster children and helped start City School, an inner-city Christian school in Austin, Texas.
Before 9/11 we lived an orderly, inwardly focused life swaddled in an illusion of safety. After 9/11 our family life is messier, more outwardly focused, and it feels riskier.
But that too is an illusion. Because the God of creation, like Aslan, is on the move.