I feel like this is a good year to write you this letter. You’re twelve now. You’re starting to learn a lot more about how the world works, and there are some things that I think you need to know.
I want to start off, though, with an apology that I think I owe you. I don’t feel compelled to offer the same apology to your younger siblings, but I owe it to you. You see, you are not growing up in the world that your Mom and I brought you into. Some things changed between your birth day and your first birthday. Those changes showed me that you are growing up in the wrong book.
You know your Dad has always loved to read. My favorite books are history books, of course, the odder the better. I have favorite fiction books, too, though. They fall into two groups. The first are futuristic science fiction. Books that feel like Star Trek, where people travel through space just like crop dusters buzz our house these days. Books that point toward a future where things have gotten better. Fewer diseases, clean energy, no hunger. Good stuff.
The other type of fiction books that I have always loved, though, are less hopeful. I like what used to be called technothrillers. The Hunt for Red October, for example, or other Tom Clancy novels. Books that depict a world where good wins out, eventually, over evil, but only after evil exacts a terrible price on the world.
When you were born in early 2001, there was every reason to believe you would grow up in the first kind of book. Even with the contested election in 2000, while I was hopeful that Vice President Gore would not win, there was not a great fear of what would happen if he did win. In all honesty, I think he would have been less harmful, since he wouldn’t have had time to fabricate his semi-documentary film. True, there were some economic questions at hand–how we would deal with rising gas prices, how Enron was really making money, questions like that, but in my naivete, I really thought better days were ahead.
September 11, 2001, changed all that. It was a normal day at the church we were serving. I was trying to placate the angry man who wanted to demand the pastor’s resignation (no, not me. I was the youth dude.) You and Mommy were at home, and you were likely asleep. Your Grandpa called me at work and told me that some idiot had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. You will have seen pictures of it. It was a pair of towers in New York City. Back when I was in elementary school, those towers were the tallest buildings in the world. Not much to look at, honestly, just two buildings that looked like most boring tall buildings. Just much taller.
The church secretary and I jimmied the lock into the pastor’s office, because that was the only TV in the church, and tuned in some news. There was a hideous column of black smoke coming from the building, and all we could think about was how they were going to get the people out of the building and fight the fire. Then the worst thing imaginable happened. Another plane hit the other tower. Within a couple of hours, there were two more plane crashes and the towers collapsed. More than 3,000 people lost their lives. At the time, there were estimates of upwards of 25,000 dead. Nobody knew.
What I did know was that you were going to grow up in the wrong book. There would be no flying cars and warp travel. No cold fusion or holodecks. Instead, you were going to grow up in a world of metal detectors and suspicions. It was a world that I knew was possible. I remembered the horror of Oklahoma City that led to no more unattended vehicles at major places and license requirements for nitrogen fertilizer. This was going to be worse. You are growing up in a world where every gathering of people is a potential target.
And I wish I could tell you that your father has always been brave and helped stand up to the evil in our world. The truth is, though, I haven’t been. I would like to believe that I have tried, but I am reminded every day of the price that many have paid that we have never had to. I tried in those first few years to earn a uniform and stand shoulder to shoulder with some of my friends that have done so, but I never could.
What I have done is the best I can do. I’ve tried to help you grow up as innocent of the carnage as I could. I don’t know that it was the best way to do it, but that is the choice that we made as your parents. The world, though, is catching up to us and you need to know. You need to know that you were born for a better world, but that I, and my fellow adults, have not been able to deliver it for you.
It really does fall to you and your generation to make it happen. You will have to be brave and strong, just as many others have been through the years. You will have to choose to fight fires, knowing it could be fatal. You will have to choose to stand against evil and tyranny, wherever they are. You will have to choose to stand up for the voiceless. You will have to choose to build bridges that help destroy enmity between peoples.
There is, unfortunately, no great deus ex machina to set the world back on track. No great breakthroughs or moments of positive progress. There is only the truth that you know so well: God created this world; God redeemed this world; God will return and judge this world.
And the biggest thing of all. That God loves the people on this world. He left that message, and left it with us. He works through us and in us to proclaim that. I wish that you could proclaim it to your fellow star voyagers or undersea dwellers. I still long to pastor First Baptist Church, Lunar Rock, as well. Instead, we have the world that is here. One in which the glimmer of hope in the lives of Believers is that can be found among the ashes.
Liv, you were born into a different world than what you live in. My heart aches for that. Yet you are able. I know that the challenges ahead are not insurmountable. You can, and you will, not only survive but thrive. For you are never alone. You are surrounded by people who love you, and even if they are missing, you are kept by the love of God.
As you find the truth of this world we live on, that it is at times a sin-soaked disaster zone and at other times a sin-wrecked crime scene, always remember that the God you serve loves it. He loves the people in it, and He has called you to be one of His messengers to those people. Love them, even though hate surrounds you. Love them, because He does, and that’s all that matters.