Forgiveness at the Foot of the Cross
Cheryl McGuinness’s husband, Tom, had been a copilot on American Airlines Flight 11 when it was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. At that moment, Tom was ushered into heaven, which gave Cheryl and her two teenagers great comfort—but the loss was still piercing.
In July 2002, Cheryl left her Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home and went to New York City for the first time since the terrorist attacks. Reluctantly, she made her way to Ground Zero and scanned the gray pit of devastation splayed out in front of her. Her gaze fixed upon the only steel structure left standing. It was in the shape of a cross.
How can you forgive what man has done? she silently cried out to God. How can you forgive this evil devastation and destruction?
At that moment, she felt as though she were kneeling at the foot of the cross on Calvary instead of standing at the edge of Ground Zero. The weight of her own sin against God and others pressed down on her, until she felt God speaking to her: “I forgive you, Cheryl.” Suddenly, she thought, God knows the full extent of the evil committed on 9/11,because that evil was done to him as well. . . . The rebellion of man put him on the cross. Not only the men involved in the hijackings but all of us. I put him there.
It wasn’t something she could do in her own strength, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, she is learning to forgive what seems unforgivable, as the Lord has forgiven us.
Prayer: Lord, work the miracle of forgiveness in my heart.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32
*Cheryl McGuinness’ speaking ministry, Beauty Beyond the Ashes, was born out of her 9-11-01 experience and healing.
“The Lord Is my Husband”
Cheryl McGuinness was lonely. After eighteen years of marriage to her pilot husband, flying solo as a widow was difficult to get used to. She felt conspicuously, painfully alone in a world that seemed to teem with couples.
Over the months that followed, however, God slowly showed Cheryl a new way of life.
[God] has called me to himself, into a relationship I never would have imagined possible. I used to think that I had to have a husband to be complete. I have come to realize, however, that’s not necessarily true. I was created by God as a unique individual. . . .And whether or not [God’s plan for my life] involves someone else is not as important as growing closer to God and becoming all that he wants me to be.
Two weeks after the one-year anniversary of September 11, 2011, the dull ache of loneliness still reverberated in Cheryl’s heart. As she walked along the New Hampshire shoreline not far from her home, she prayed: “Lord, you’re my redeemer, you’re my salvation, you’re my hope, you’re my love, you’re my provider, you’re my refuge, you’re my strength, you’re my Abba—‘ And for the very first time I said, ‘You’re my husband.’”18 As she repeated the words over and over, while listening to praise music through her Walkman, her spirit shed its shroud of mourning and began to swell with God’s love and the wonder of His creation.
In recognition of her new status as the bride of the Lord, she moved her wedding ring from her left hand to her right hand. God has first claim on my heart, she thought. He is my spiritual husband.19
Life as a widow still has its challenges. But in the months after her husband’s death in the terrorist attacks, God cultivated new life in Cheryl. “God slowly turned my fear into courage, my uncertainty into confidence, and my pain and suffering into peace and contentment. I know now that I can trust God in all things. You can too.”
Prayer: Lord, help me give You first claim on my own heart.
“For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” ~Isaiah 54:5