"Because times of crisis reopen the old wound and bring its pain and anguish to the surface, they also offer us the chance to examine the wound, see it for what it is, and free ourselves from its power.

"The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have pushed us into what is sometimes called a limit situation: a time of material, emotional and spiritual upheaval that forcibly takes us beyond the boundaries of normalcy. Limit situations propel us out of a state of secure and safe equilibrium, of 'being well settled, knowing that life makes sense and that God is well placed in heaven,' into one of painful disorientation where life in all its rawness bushwhacks and overwhelms us. Everything we thought permanent and absolutely dependable is shaken; everything we thought unquestionable is up for grabs. The old safety zones and security barriers no longer protect us.

"Horribly painful as such a time of disorientation and fear can be, it also offers an opportunity — a kairos, as the gospel writers would have said — for seeing, learning, and growing. Security barriers block our vision. It's difficult to stretch high enough to peek out over them. But when they are swept away in a limit situation, a wide vista of possibility suddenly stretches before us. At first we may suffer intensely from spiritual agoraphobia. Underground creatures panic when their burrows collapse and they find themselves under open sky. But if we can endure the initial shock, we will discover we are made for open places, despite the fact that we are incredibly vulnerable in them. Open, unprotected places are always risky, but they're also where God and self-insight and true community are found. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, 'People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.' "