9-11 survivor shares faith

Below is a transcript from a Georgene Rice KPDQ-FM interview with Leslie Haskin, World Trade Center survivor and author of “God Has Not Forgotten About You and He Cares More Than You Can Imagine” and “Between Heaven and Ground Zero”.

Georgene: We so enjoyed hearing your first story, “Between Heaven and Ground Zero” and how God sustained you through that time. Many of us have wondered what happens in the long term. It’s one thing to survive an event and to go on for a period of time, but when everything changes in such a dramatic way, there has to be a residual impact on life. You write about that, as well as the similarities of the lives of many of us whose circumstances may be different but are equally devastating.

Haskin: One of my catchphrases is, “as long as we live, life will keep happening”. We have no control over what goes on in our lives and whether we are experiencing the ups or the downs. But one thing that is constant—one thing that’s sure—is that life is going to keep changing and nothing is going to stay the same, except for God and the peace that he gives us through the change and through the ups and downs. He is this wonderfully consistent hand that gives us peace, comfort, encouragement and hope through it all.

Georgene: Perhaps the title of the book is somewhat telling. Was there a period in which you struggled with just being mindful of God’s presence and his constant thinking of and providing for you?

I went through a period in my life where I felt disconnected. It was difficult for me to feel the presence of God in everything that was going on in the static noise of everyday life—phones, people, ministry pressures. It was hard to feel God. So in seeking him, I learned that sometimes, even though the warm and fuzzy feelings we get when we sense his presence are nice, it’s more important that we realize that we don’t have to feel him to know he’s there. That’s where our faith comes in. He said that he would be with us even throughout the end of the earth, and that’s what he meant: That he’s going to be right here with us; that he’s at the ready to comfort the hurting and, even if we aren’t hurting, just to pay attention to us and to hear our laughter and hear our tears and hear our conversations—just to be part of our everyday life. He promised that he’s going to be there whether we feel him or not, so knowing that he’s always there is what’s important, and that’s what we need to hold onto.

If 9/11 hadn’t happened, would your life have continued on a very different course?

Haskin: Absolutely. My only goal in life was to be “Miss Corporate America”. I wanted to be the president of some huge bank or insurance branch in New York or London and sit on top of the world. I defined myself and my success by the world criteria, with no intent of serving the Lord. I was “God” in my life. My success was measured by my own hand. God has changed that so that now I see my worth in Christ, and it’s not measured by titles or money, but by the lives that are impacted by the testimony of God’s grace. To continually say, “Today I am going to wake up and live authentically before the Lord”, and I am going to love him and tell the truth about what this relationship between he and I looks like so that others can see him through me.

Georgene: Your book is very timely in that, while we haven’t seen the kind of event you lived through, we are seeing people’s hopes and expectations dashed, particularly on the economic front. People who had trusted in their wealth and employment and felt secure in those things are finding the ground quite shaky. Do you think that people really are in a position where they need to be reminded of God’s place in their life?

Haskin: Absolutely. I’m seeing this across the country. I’m meeting people who are just hurting. Life situations have really started to wear down on the spirits of, not only non believers, but believers as well. People are losing their homes and can’t meet their monthly expenses, and families are falling apart. People are sick and struggling and wondering, in this recession, where is God? They are wondering how they find hope in all of this. There is no one solution for every problem, except for Jesus Christ. We have to trust him completely and throw the situation, as it appears to be, to the wind. If we ask, he promises that he will answer us, but maybe not in the way we had anticipated.

You have a unique perspective on the confrontation of David and Goliath. David slew the giant and all was well, but what if Goliath had not fallen? You write that life.is, in a sense, a giant in and of itself.

Haskin: Goliath has been compared to all of the obstacles and trials we face in life. What that does is it focuses our attention on one thing at a time: Let me conquer this giant; Let me conquer that giant. We depend on the outcome to be the way we want it to be. And if the outcome is the way we want it to be, we count that as a victory. But what if Goliath had not fallen? What if it was David who fell? That doesn’t take away from the sovereignty of God. God is still God. And God still cares, and he is still bigger than our giants.

So perhaps then the giant isn’t the little things we face every day, but life itself. Perhaps all the mountains, the 9/11’s, the recessions, the drug additions, the cancers, the births and the deaths—all of it together that makes up life—is that one giant. If so, then that is such good news because Christ has overcome the world. He had defeated the giant at the cross. It changes our perspective from getting through one, two, three, four little challenges to getting through this whole thing and being in the presence of the almighty God throughout eternity. That makes it worth it because, whether I win or lose the small battles, I know that my ultimate victory is guaranteed in the presence of God.

What you are talking about is an eternal perspective?

Yes, I’m talking about an eternal perspective—that’s where we win. If we can somehow start to change our perspective from this temple of the every day to the eternal perspective, then it makes things so much easier to bear because we’re looking forward to the final reward, and we know that’s ours.

Georgene: You share a good number of personal experiences and stories that I would imagine would be somewhat difficult to do. You have invested a lot of yourself in this book, and that gives you that authenticity that you talked about and lets your listeners know that we are so much alike in the things that life brings before us that are challenges.

I think that’s where we meet, and that’s where we have to be transparent. It doesn’t serve the body of Christ for me to pretend that I have it all together or that I have all the answers or that birds are singing outside my window or that butterflies are landing on my hand. What serves the body of Christ is that I am able to open up and say that sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I get up on Sunday morning and I don’t feel like I want to be bothered. Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes I don’t feel like praying. Sometimes I don’t want to open up my bible. But that’s okay sometimes because this is a relationship that works for me and the Lord. He knows that I’m in this flesh, and he forgives me for that, and he says, “It’s okay, Leslie, I’m not going to break up with you because you’re tired today”. It’s difficult for me to open up and say these are the prayers I pray, but I do it for love, as he does it for love for us. He loves me, and I love him back, and in my doing is how I show him my love.

You write about leaving a legacy—what would you want that legacy to be?

That I loved hard everyday. That I held no punches. God has blessed me. 9/11 was simultaneously the worst and the best day of my life because it forever changed my perspective. I now live with a constant awareness that I never know when my voice is going to be the last voice that someone hears. I want to make my words count for something. I want people to know that Christ is alive, and he loves them, and so in doing that I love as hard as I can. I’m not waiting until tomorrow to tell you that I love you or that I forgive you. That’s the legacy I want to leave—that this woman loved and threw away all the weights of the world and just said, “I’m going for it.”

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