WHEN THE TOWERS FALL
How to rebuild your life in the rubble. Part 1.
I apologize for the title. I know it’s disturbing and dramatic but I started thinking about this series of blogs on September 11th, watching the still horrific TV images of the crumbling twin towers in New York.
I guess that got me thinking about how anyone ever recovers from disaster. How do people rise from the ashes that follow implosive events – events such as sudden redundancy, bereavement, betrayal,failure, shock, bad news, and so on?
Some implosions are self-inflicted, of course, while others are inflicted on us. But whether we cause our chaos or have our chaos thrust upon us, we are all faced with the same choices once the dust settles.
That’s what this series of blogs is about.
It’s not about the blame game – going over and over what’s happened and blaming ourselves, others, the devil, or even God.
No, this series is more pragmatic, more merciful.
It’s one of those HOW TO series I vowed I’d never write.
It’s a series of steps (I hate those too) – steps that I have been led to take in my own chaos.
I want to share with those thousands and thousands of people whose towers have fallen what might be involved in rebuilding your life.
So today I offer my first step, and it’s this:
Don’t - whatever you do - lose hope.
When the lights go out and we’re lost in the rubble, it’s hard to think about anything else except the present moment. The priority is enduring the challenges before us in the now. We are committed to one thing and one thing only – survival. It’s not about living. It’s about simply existing. All we can often say in our solitude is this:
I just need to try and get through today.
All this is reasonable, practical and totally understandable.
And yet it is not just surviving the present moment that brings us out of the debris. It is the ability to believe that there might one day be order where there is now chaos, beauty where there is now ugliness, life where there is now death.
It is the ability to cling by our torn and dirty fingernails to the frayed hem of hope when it passes by.
It is the ability to shift from the present to the future tense, even if it’s just for a second.
I know there are some, like Eckhart Tolle, who believe that looking to the future is a denial of the reality of what’s happening now. But I’m not suggesting something as simple or simplistic as that. I’m suggesting we do both.
In other words, I’m saying, ‘in the midst of facing our reality, let’s be open to the fact that now is not all there is, that there is a future, that there is hope, that we will breathe fresh, clean, sun-drenched air again.’
I’m saying ‘let’s believe what it says in Isaiah 61, that there’s a transcendent force in the universe – the redemptive force of divine love – which can create beauty out of ashes.’
I'm saying 'let's hold onto the hope expressed even by the cynical author of Ecclesiastes (3.11) that God makes everything beautiful in its (his) time.'
In the midst of my own reality, one of the most helpful comments anyone has made to me is this.
‘Mark, this is the end of a chapter; it is not the end of the book.’
Maybe it was the fact that he was using an analogy which he knew would really touch me deeply (that’s a good buddy for you). But when he said those words it felt like a tiny shaft of light had broken through the ash clouds and touched a despairing corner of my heart.
I felt the momentary warming offered by a shard of hope.
And that hope – that this is not the end of me, my life, my contribution to the planet – has sustained me.
It has helped me some days just to move because hope is what keeps us alive when the lights have gone out.
Whatever disaster, whatever loss, whatever tragedy, whatever failure, you may be facing right now, don’t lose hope.
Hope sees the treasure in the trash.
It sees the first golden glimmers of redemption in the ghastly rubbish all around us.
And that takes something.
It really takes something to cling to some bright possibility of hope on the darkest of days.
It really takes something to declare in the detritus of disaster, 'God's not done with me yet.'
In fact, there are few finer, diviner things than the tenacity of hope.
On August 28th it was the fiftieth anniversary of the greatest speech since the Sermon on the Mount. I am referring of course to Dr Martin Luther King’s address delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
I have been fortunate enough to stand on those steps a number of times in my life and to look out from where the great man delivered his speech.
So it seems fitting to end this first blog with a quote from Dr King.
He once said, ‘we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.’