Eight days later, it was still an eerie sight. Against the night sky, the portable lights accentuated the smoke and dust still rising from Ground Zero. Helicopter gun ships circled the area reminding us of the instability of our situation. As our Port Authority police work crew drive the four blocks from the command center to the place that used to be the World Trade Center, there was still this sense of surrealism. But as we walked that final block to Ground Zero, passing rows and rows of armed military guards along the way, the surrealism gave way to the stark reality of cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, and the stench of burning rubber and plastic. I've never been in a war zone, but I cannot imagine one looking any worse that this. 220 floors, each weighing an estimated one million pounds had simply imploded and dropped to the earth below.
Our PAPD work crew waited patiently while the cranes and bulldozers moved loads of debris. Then came the sound of the horn and the call that a 'bucket line' was needed. That was when the various agencies (scores from across the nation) came together to form two lines a hundred yards long and they passed five gallon buckets of debris from around air pockets on the debris pile to the perimeter. This was also when hopes of finding survivors or human remains would peak. On the night I stood there, over 3,000 people still remained unaccounted for and over 10% of those were firefighters and law enforcement. For the brave men and women on the bucket lines, this wasn't a job. It was a mission!
As I stood at the staging area for the Port Authority PD, I was approached by the Reverend Everett Wabst, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York. He was checking credentials for on-site chaplains. In the course of our conversation, I asked about Father Mychal Judge, a senior chaplain for the FDNY. Everett had known Father Mychal well and told me that the Father had been killed by falling debris as he knelt beside another victim while administering last rites. He then offered me a laminated care and said that it was Father Mychal's favorite prayer:
Lord, take me where You want me to go. Let me meet who You want me to meet. Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way.
Father Mychal had great insight and I believe this prayer was based on Paul's words in Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not 'mine' but it is lived by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me. The very best way to be used by God is to empty ourselves of ourselves so that Christ Himself can speak and act through us. Sometimes, He might want to use us outside our comfort zones where danger lurks and sacrifice is a very real possibility. The real issue, then, for us is obedience, a daily submission of the self(ego) to the will of God.
Now that you've been introduced to "Father Mychal's Prayer," perhaps his influence will continue to grow as more and more of us begin to pray, "Lord, take me where You want me to go. Let me meet who You want me to meet. Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way." After all, it is God Who changes lives. We are merely His instruments.