Paris. The city of light. The city of love. The city of bakeries, and sidewalk cafes, and rich decadent foods. The city of art, and culture, and history. I weep for you. For your loss. For your broken heart. I weep for your mothers and fathers…for your sons and daughters. My mind does not understand such acts of violence. No matter how many times it happens or on whose soil it falls, there is no comprehension. My brain grasps and fires synapses to try to connect the dots. It comes up with likely answers, with sound-bite answers, with explanations of all kinds… but none of them are satisfactory, so it rolls on and glues itself to the reports and pictures while continuing to wear me out in its attempt to find the words.
My heart, however, knows that a war wages between good vs. evil. My heart is personally familiar with that battle. I am simultaneously filled with compassion and hard-hearted. Filled with both hope and fear. Double-minded and laser-focused. I see the influence of the darkness on the light that flickers within me. Can anyone say differently? I have yet to meet the person who can claim only light without some contamination of shadows. My heart recognizes the conflict when it sees it on the TV screen in HD clarity. Darkness taken to the extreme.
There are Forces that come to bear on all that is good. Forces that desire to steal innocence and trust. Forces that do not want light and beauty to exist. They try to snuff out those things wherever they find them. I have discovered that the primary residence of light and beauty is not a city, or a place, but within us. Humans. We are after all created in the image of God, are we not? What better way for his enemies to strike at his heart and break it than to destroy all of his children…or convince them to destroy each other. It has been the strategy for centuries upon centuries. (The Forces are not very creative.) It has been waged on every continent, and in every country. So far it hasn’t worked, but that does not stop the Forces from wreaking havoc in their attempt.
The Forces work in obvious televised ways that are increasing in frequency, which stun us and take our breath away in shock. But they also sneak around in more dangerous subtle ways. They insert themselves into our lives, and thoughts. This way the shadows in our hearts become bigger and the light becomes smaller. Have you noticed it? I have. My heart is protecting itself and in so doing, it hides. Being in the thick of the battle, as it intensifies in the world all around me, I pull back. I become wary and weary. I find ways to hold back because I just never know where the next attack with come from. Little do I realize it is coming from within me, eating me away. Little do I know that by hiding in the shadows with my fear, the darkness will grow and my trust in Good will wither away until I only see the dark…everything through fear-colored glasses that taint my view of the world.
Friday the City of Light grew dim, and I must admit it is hard to see otherwise through the smoke-like fog of grief that blankets the city. The clouds are darkening overhead and I wonder…Where is the good? Where is the light? But there is an answer to these difficult questions. The light is in the same place as the darkness…inside of me where God dwells. I guess the question is…Am I going to let it out? Or am I going to hide it away amongst the shadows in the corners of my heart? Hard to do when the clamor for revenge is so loudly yelling in my ears. Hard to do when I let the hard part of my heart forget the truth which is that light always overcomes darkness. Always.
It does not make sense that I would choose the shadows over light, but I do. When I let the Forces press in upon me, pulling me into their fear…clouding my vision like a shroud, I am letting them win. When I speak words that do not hold life in them, I am watering and fertilizing the ground so that the seeds the Forces sow can germinate. Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before the roots are deep and the thorny vines constrict my heart. It is a desperate attempt to snuff out the light, an attempt with which I sometimes cooperate. There is a reason it is called terrorism…it sows terror by definition. If I am succumbing to terror the Forces are doing their jobs well. If I am panicking, I have played right into the plan. If I am spreading panic with words and actions, I am aiding and abetting.
There is a way to fight the Forces of darkness… “Be not afraid.” “Shine your light.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? If only it were so. To do these two humble things requires inward reflection in a world that prefers to point outward. Yet, if it were possible to allow the light within me to grow bigger by speaking life, or by spreading hope, or by serving others, I could become a stone that creates ripples. If I allowed God’s perfect love to cast out fear, I could stand unafraid when the Forces try to suffocate me. And if I was not the only one, sparks could become a flame and then a fire which would shine out like a city on a hill. Within the light is an invitation to life. If only I can find a way to accept. If only God will show me how to enter the place where he is so that the darkness will flee.
Today, Paris weeps. And she needs so much more than shadows. She needs to grieve her losses, and share them with the burden bearers so she is not alone with her tears. She needs to be silent as she is weeping, while the world wraps her in a collective embrace. I want to give her more than additional darkness. I do not want to add to her pain by increasing the shadows. She needs to see goodness and light so her hope will be restored. She needs me to speak life and hope over her. And so I do.
I pray that the light of the world will reside in her streets. That the grief she feels would bring forth tears of healing. That her people would know the perfect love that casts out fear, and that they would receive all the prayers of those who feel their pain as if it was their own. I pray that the Forces would not press in or suffocate the light. That the spark of hope would be fanned into flame over time and that those who carry hope would find their way to those who have lost it. I pray for restoration of peace and for compassion in the midst of turmoil that comes with this kind of disaster. I pray for unity. Mostly I pray for grace to face the darkness and to allow the light to overcome it. Amen.