I’d had quite an emotional weekend in early September, 2001. On Saturday, September 8, I came home from a friend’s birthday party to find my mom, my sister and my then 11-year-old niece all hurting from sudden losses (my mom’s friend died unexpectedly and close friends of my sister forbade their daughters to have contact with my niece). In their grief, they found reasons to treat each other with anger. I kept a low profile, finding sanctuary Sunday and Monday chatting online with John about our upcoming wedding.
By Monday evening, tensions in the household had begun to ease, leading me to think I could resume enjoying my last few months in California. But I woke up Tuesday morning to the unusual sound of my sister sobbing wildly in the living room. I sighed, wondering what could have triggered another argument between her and Mom.
As muted sounds from the television wafted into my bedroom, Mom ran in yelling, “Two planes just hit the Twin Towers in New York! We’re at war!”
About 20 years ago, I developed an interest in genealogy. A cousin on Mom’s side of the family sent me some information going back to our grandmother’s grandfather, who came to America from Ireland in the mid 1800s.
As always when someone investigates their family history, there were things about my great-great-grandfather that disturbed me. Having settled in the South, for example, he fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (Granny tried to get me to call it The War Between The States). I feel embarrassed that he fought for the side that wanted to preserve black slavery, but I can’t change my heritage.
There are things about my personal past that I can’t change my either. The 17 years of my life before Jesus brought me to salvation may have been characterized by socially acceptable sins like my fascination with the occult (which would have pleased my great-great-grandmother, by the way), but I still rebelled against the Lord. I was headed for hell.
Thankfully, Jesus circumvented my path of self-destruction, convincing me that He took my sin on Himself. As I look back on who I was before His Holy Spirit enabled me to trust in Him as my Savior, I feel even more embarrassed than I do about my great-great-grandfather. But remembering where I came from only increases my gratitude to the Lord. I love Him most when I remember how lost I was without Him.