The French flag in Angers, France.
I sat down at my computer this morning to write a post, but my fingers were paralyzed over the keyboard. The attacks in Paris yesterday, which left 129 dead and hundreds more injured, had left me numb. They were “soft targets” – a concert venue, cafés, bars, restaurants, a sports stadium. The victims were civilians – teens and twenty-somethings out for a rock concert. Working people kicking back with friends over a drink and a meal, ready to welcome the week-end. Families running errands at the mall.
The sick, cowardly hatred behind these co-ordinated terrorist attacks set off such shock-waves of anger and sadness that paralysis is, I suspect, the outward face of this day for many. There’s a sense of deflating hope. Deflating momentum. If it can all be taken away with one gullible sucker of a suicide bomber, what’s the point, right?
But that’s just the way the dark side wants us to feel. And I don’t want the dark side to win.
Let sadness be turned to love. It is unthinkable how many people in Paris today are coping with the devastating loss of daughters and sons and sweet-hearts and parents and siblings and friends and colleagues. It is true that not one of us is guaranteed another day with our loved ones. Make sure they know they are loved.
Let fear be turned to spiritual peace. There was nothing the victims could have done to protect themselves. The randomness of the assault made it inescapable. It is true that the possibility of death, though highly unlikely for most of us on any given day, is nevertheless ever-present. Make your peace with it.
Let hatred be turned to wisdom. I can easily imagine the backlash against Muslims that might happen in Paris in the days ahead. Even against those who have spoken out in horrified disgust against yesterday’s brutality and who would have given their lives to save the victims if they could have. It is true that there are twisted people who are capable of enormous evil in our midst – of all backgrounds and belief systems – who portray themselves convincingly as harmless. Avoid simplistic, broad-brush scapegoating. Get humble and real about your own dark side, and allow a vigilant awareness to develop.
Let paralysis be turned to purpose. I’m sure there are many in Paris who weren’t able to get up out of bed to face the day today. In the silence after the gunfire and bomb explosions, there are insidious whisperings of futility. How many dreams for the future were dashed in a matter of hours yesterday? How much accomplishment was blasted away in a few moments? It is true that no outcome for any effort is guaranteed. So be motivated by what is greater than the outcome. Be motivated by the underlying principles of your goals. They are impervious to criminal insanity. They are eternal.
Let cynicism be turned to outreach. There is a highly effective recruitment machine at work – with the specific target of disaffected young men in need of validation, a sense of significance, and a father figure. The minds behind this machine tap into screaming needs of seekers with a promise to offer “the answer”. Purpose. Power. Paradise. As far as we know, eight such seekers gave their lives to the cause of Friday’s destruction in Paris. It is true that there are daunting, seemingly limitless social needs in our world. And arguably, their most disturbing expression is in the form of violence at the hands of brain-washed, manipulated young men. As parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, community members and leaders – let’s face these desperate needs head-on and work constructively towards their fulfillment.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”
Love and healing, comfort and strength to the people of France. Que Dieu soit avec vous dans votre détresse.