- a new day in the desert -
I have been in many sacred places in my life- great cathedrals, stunning churches, temples, mosques, shrines, the Grand Canyon, the expansive desert in which I live; but somehow and for some reason I have found “airports” to be among the most sacred of all the places in which I have encountered the “holy.” I have always found an airport to be a “thin place.”
In airports people let down their thick defenses a bit more than usual - families and friends joyfully greet one another and say their tearful goodbyes, people sit and wait (often in silence) as they prepare to board a plane and fly away into a future that somehow seems far beyond anything they can carefully control. People are more vulnerable and fragile in airports - that’s why these places are holy, places where the veil between humanity and divinity often seems paper-thin.
As we sat in an airport in Washington DC yesterday morning preparing to fly back to our desert home in Southern California, the airport lived up to my expectations - it was a holy place and a sacred shine.
Yesterday morning the airport in Washington was bustling with frenetic activity as travelers rushed here and there to begin another day in their busy lives; but then amidst the loud sound of travellers in that almost-chaotic airport, an announcement was made that “stopped everyone in their tracks.”
Fourteen years earlier, at 8:48 a.m. on September 11, planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City. Yesterday was September 11, and at 8:48 a.m. an airport announcement reminded all the busy travellers of that event fourteen years earlier, asking if everyone would kindly stop, remember, pray, think, meditate - take a “moment of silence.”
I must say that in all my life I have never quite witnessed what happened in response to that announcement. It was as if time stopped and everyone froze in place - the hushed silence was awesome, almost terrifying, as heads bowed and tears welled up in the eyes of so many of my fellow travelers. It was such a sacred moment, such a holy time - an experience of profound transcendence. I was filled with tears as I stood in that silence, so clearly aware that I was not alone, never abandoned – the power of holy LOVE was flowing in and through us all.
Fourteen years ago, in the aftermath of the events of that fateful day in September there were many people who called for revenge and lashed out in anger at a “God” who would allow or perhaps even cause such a tragedy, many felt lost and abandoned (and still do). And yet, just as those planes were crashing and towers were falling to the ground, people inside those towers were urgently calling and sending messages to their loved ones they were about to leave behind:
You were such a great father, dad, I love you
Tell the kids how much I love them.
My dearest one, I will love you forever- I always will.
Even in the midst of such horrible tragedy, as people faced the threshold of death, love abided. “God” certainly didn’t abandon anyone because love was not abandoned and God is love.
There is a line in the Christian scriptures:
He who does not love does not know God for God is love (1 John)
Yesterday as we all stood in that holy moment in a Washington DC airport, love prevailed. In the hushed silence and welled-up tears I sensed no cry for vengeance and the silence went well beyond a fond memory of people who long ago were killed at that moment. For me, in the silence I felt a sense of resurrection in the midst of chaos. I knew that love had won the day.
Love won the day 14 years ago and love continues to prevail 14 years later. We were never abandoned back then, are not abandoned now, and never will be abandoned in the days to come because God is love and love flows in us and love never comes to an end.
Mahatma Gandhi once said:
Where there is love there is life.
I think you can also turn the phrase around:
Where there is life there is love.
We are never abandoned.