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In Her Darkest Season

Lisa Beamer's witness after 9/11 exemplifies what it means to be salt of the earth.


by Joseph Stowell

It was just days after September 11, 2001 when Lisa Beamer made her first of several appearances on Larry King Live! Whether she knew it or not, Lisa was "salt" in one of the darkest seasons of grief and confusion in the history of our nation.

Her husband had become a hero of major proportions when he sacrificed his life to avert a fourth plane from victimizing another target on that crisp September morning. Left alone with two small boys and pregnant with her third child, she captured the attention of America with her unusual strength and poise in the midst of such devastating circumstances. Speaking of her husband's role on that tragic day, she told Larry King,

He called the GTE airphone operator about 9:45 in the morning and started reporting to her what was going on in the plane, including that there were hijackers and they had taken over the cockpit and possibly killed the crew.

He was sitting in the back of the plane with 27 others, and he was sitting next to a flight attendant, perhaps Mrs. Lyles, I'm not sure. But the plane began to fly erratically, and he was aware that this was a situation that was not a normal hijacking situation, and he informed the operator that he knew that he was not going to make it out of this.

His next response was to ask her to say the Lord's Prayer with him, and then he asked Jesus to help him. And once he got that guidance, he asked her to contact me—gave her my name and phone number and my children's names—and to tell us how much he loved us.

And then once he had all that business squared away, he did what Todd would normally do, and he took some action, and what he did was he told the operator that he and some other people on the flight were deciding to jump on the hijacker with the bomb …

Larry King: Were you surprised at anything Todd did?

Lisa: No…. He was a man of action and a man of thought, and he would think through decisions before he made them, and he would seek wise counsel. I think he sought wise counsel, certainly in calling on Jesus and saying the Lord's Prayer and getting his heart right…. And after he sought that wise counsel, he was ready to take action. And that was the way he lived his life, based on faith and action, and that's the way he ended his life as well…

Larry King: You're not surprised, then, at the prayer either?

Lisa: Not at all. Todd, like I said, was a man of faith. He knew that this life was not all there is, and this life was just here to prepare him for his eternity in heaven with God and with Jesus. And Todd made sure every day that he did his best. He wasn't perfect, and neither am I. But he did his best to make sure that he was living a life that was pleasing to God and that would help him know God better, and he acted on that all the way to the end, and I'm so proud.

Larry King: You have two sons. David is three, Drew is one, and you're expecting a third child in January.

Lisa: That's correct. And people sometimes look at me, I think, and wonder, is she in shock, is she, you know, unrealistic about what the situation is, and they don't see me all the other times when I'm, you know, breaking down and losing my composure. But, certainly, the faith that I have is like Todd's, and it's helping me understand the bigger picture here and that God's justice will ultimately prevail and that we have more to look forward to than just what we see here around us on earth.

Larry King's facial expression and riveted attention made it clear that at this point he was unusually moved. And it was his concluding remarks that proved the power of Lisa's unflinching trust in Jesus:

Larry King:

I admire your faith and your courage. You've given a lot of people a lot of hope here tonight.

Jesus showed up in strength that night on national television. On the platform of great personal tragedy, the kind that would normally overwhelm non-Jesus people with deep despair and hopelessness, Lisa proved that Jesus works even in the worst of times. The "good-works" of unflinching trust and confidence caught the attention of a watching world. Good theology is often expressed best in action and attitude.

In Jesus' terms, it was salt in action. Lisa had engaged a hostile society with the salt of her life.

Cracking the code of what it means to be salt is not difficult. When Jesus says, "If the salt has lost its savor," He underscores the reality that salt has the power to make a difference. In the ancient world salt was used to flavor, preserve, and purify. In Jesus' world, just mentioning salt would have meant that He was talking about something of great value. In fact, soldiers and others in Christ's day were often paid in salt—which explains the old saying, "He's not worth his salt."

As a flavor enhancer, salt adds zest and brings taste to what would otherwise be bland and disappointing. I love the metaphor. Salting our world means we are to avoid being grumpy, stagnated, out of date, and stodgy. We tend toward that at times. Unfortunately, soon after Christianity became the accepted religion of the Roman Empire something got lost in the victory. After observing Christians, Emperor Julian lamented, "Have you looked at these Christians closely? Hollow-eyed, pale-cheeked, flat-breasted, they brood their lives away unspurred by ambition. The sun shines for them, but they don't see it. The earth offers them its fullness, but they desire it not. All their desire is to renounce and suffer that they may come to die."

God help us!

As a friend of mine says, "If you have joy inside, you should have your heart telephone your face and let it know."

What would your world look like if you were salting it?

As salt we should season our world with the celebrant, confident, optimistic, and joyous nature of our position and privileges in Jesus. Because of all we have in Jesus, life is rich and free. By contrast, ultimately, life without Jesus is hollow, tasteless, and an empty pursuit. Our mission is to engage a world that has gone flat on itself with the zest and added value that Jesus brings to life.

Relationships will be blessed when salty followers are present. No one should laugh more deeply, listen more intently, prove that life is worth living more forthrightly, than we who follow Jesus. When fallen lives intersect ours, they should sense the depth of joy and purpose that only Jesus brings.

Not only do we advance the cause of Jesus by flavoring our world with His presence, but, like salt, we act as preservers as well. The drift toward decadence should be checked because followers of Jesus are present. Being salt means that we are better citizens who influence public policy, sit on school boards, occupy judicial benches, vote regularly, and speak out humbly yet clearly about morality and justice.

Our place of employment should be a better place because we are there encouraging our colleagues and putting in an honest day's work. People should trust us more because we are always true to our word. People should sense that there can be purpose and hope in life because they see it in us.

Followers who are keen on engaging their world with the salt of their lives measure their success in these terms. If you are truly salt, your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues will feel that their lives are safer, purer, more protected against evil, and a little brighter because you are there.

Larry King concluded his interview with Lisa Beamer that day by saying, "You're an extraordinary lady, Lisa, and we wish you luck, and we hope to see you again soon."

Count on it, having interviewed thousands of people through the years, his words were not just polite expressions of condolence. He was deeply touched. Lisa was salty.

This article was taken from The Trouble with Jesus by Joseph Stowell, © 2003, pp. 45-52. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.



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