“I always skip chapel on 9/11. Every year it’s pretty cringe-worthy.”
It was a shock to hear someone make this casual comment Tuesday afternoon. The fact that someone would be so flippantly negative is confusing to me, but that’s a discussion for another time. I don’t know why this person may have felt this way in the past — all I can say is that he made a huge mistake by skipping this year.
This year’s 9/11 chapel had every right to be solemn and melancholy. Along with remembering the national tragedy our nation endured 17 years ago, we as a community continue to grieve the loss of a brother, a light and a leader. Tuesday’s chapel was certainly a serious event.
But it was also so much more.
As we joined one another in singing songs that were dear to Botham Jean, there was a strength that outweighed the sense of loss. There was light in the midst of confusion and pain.
There was undeniable hope.
It all culminated with Dr. McLarty telling the story of Jean leading a song in 2012, only after he had called his grandmother in St. Lucia to teach it to him. As Dr. McLarty sat down, the middle screen lit up with video of that chapel from five years ago. In an awe-inspiring experience, we joined Jean in singing. Those who didn’t know him personally got a glimpse of what a joy he was; those who did know him were wonderfully reminded of his effervescence. It was a beautifully unifying and comforting moment.
The song Jean led was “Master, the Tempest is Raging,” and I can’t think of anything more apt for the occasion. As we all lifted our voices, the words of the second verse rang especially true for many on that particular day.
“Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today. The depths of my sad heart are troubled. Oh, waken and save, I pray!”
We all experience times of anguished spirits and troubled hearts. It’s not difficult to see the horror, disappointment and chaos that comes from a broken world.
How incredible is it, then, that we have a reason to look past the terror? Yes, we must sometimes travel through the tempest; regardless, we endure.
We take a deep breath and allow God to calm the waters, saying, “Peace, be still.”
Tuesday’s chapel served as an important reminder. We all experience those dreadful moments of life: grief, heartbreak, failure, guilt. It’s inevitable. But through these storms, we have a centering peace far greater than any turmoil. Because of these storms, the day we say “Master, the terror is over” will be inconceivably blissful.