"I cannot explain why I survived, when other good Christians and Adventists did not," writes Nicholas Miller. "But the fact that I am alive, that you are alive, means that God still has a purpose for you." | iStock photo
For me, the story started two weeks earlier when I was in New York City handling an arbitration for my Washington-based law firm. The arbitration was in the mid-town offices of the opposing law firm; but I stayed in the Marriott Hotel in the North World Trade Tower, the building where my firm had a large office. As the last day of the allotted arbitration period arrived, we realized that we would not finish presenting the evidence.
The arbitrator said, “Let’s all come back here in a week to finish.”
I said, knowing my client wanted more time, “Can we make it two weeks, and when we come back, can we meet in my offices downtown?”
After a pause, the arbitrator said, “Okay, two weeks, on September 11, but downtown is further for me, so we will reconvene here at mid-town.”
And just like that, the most important decision of the arbitration was made. Though of course we did not realize that fact until two weeks later. As we watched the fiery and destructive events unfold some 60 blocks or so away, I reminded the arbitrator of his decision, and how easily we could have been in the midst of the destruction. I told him that he had been used by providence to save us from terror, injury, and perhaps death. He himself appeared sobered and even shaken by the thought.
I made my way through the shocked city, with the ashes and smoke of the fallen buildings filling the surrounding air; groups of people were standing on street corners, sharing the latest news and rumors of other attacks (12 planes have been hijacked, Chicago and Los Angeles are being hit). At some point, I was able to get through the downed cell service and make a call to my firm to get a message to my wife, at home with my two toddlers, that I was safe. I made it to a ferry that took me to New Jersey. On the boat, I met a Christian man, and we shared our stories of God’s protection. Trains were not running and rental cars were not available, and he kindly put me up for the night, a final reminder of God’s care for me.
Even then, I knew that America and its relation to the Constitution, civil rights, and foreign wars would dramatically change, and not for the better. As I walked through the city, I stopped and took a picture of a poster advertising a movie called “Collateral Damage,” framed against the backdrop of the smoking city.
At that moment, I realized that the fallout from the attacks would not just be physical, but psychic and emotional in ways that would damage our constitutional ideals. Our history has borne this out, and secular commentators have documented America’s growing dragon-like qualities of intolerance to foreigners, aggressive militarism and side-lining of civil rights. There is no doubt that America is much closer to the kind of country that Adventist prophecy predicts than it was prior to that fateful day.
But even more importantly, we are called to reflect on God’s superintendence and providence in our personal lives. Yes, every day our lives are in the hands of God. I cannot explain why I survived, when other good Christians and Adventists did not. But the fact that I am alive, that you are alive, means that God still has a purpose for you. Not every thing you want or ask of Him happens. But like my requests to the arbitrator prior to 9/11, we often ask for things that would bring trouble or difficulty. God knows what’s best for you, and for me. Let us continue to live, thoughtfully and intentionally, in the hands of our loving God.
Nicholas Miller is a professor at the Seventh-day Theological Seminary at Andrews University and the Public and Religious Liberty director for the Lake Union Conference.