The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France have dominated every imaginable news outlet in our culture; and for good reason. Several years ago Elie Weisel wisely made the point that, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” Terror does it’s best to reign supreme over liberty, joy and progress, but in the wake of atrocity we almost always find the vacuum is filled by resolve, unity and even beauty.
The images of violence that shocked us all, that energized a caravan of goodwill, prayer and sympathy, have given way to memorials. The sites of the attacks in Paris, covered in blood and bodies just 72 hours ago, are now filled with a multitude of candles and tributes to the fallen and messages lauding the power of good over evil. Where there were a few figures of darkness on Friday evening, we now see thousands of little lights dancing and swaying as visitors kneel and pace, as they weep and pray and remember.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he makes reference to the response of the created world to the pain of destruction caused by human rebellion and sin:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul imagines the response of the world to the bitterness that it experiences as a great groaning, an underlying vibration in the souls of humanity and in the belly of the world. A longing for peace. A longing for beauty. A longing for the kind of order that we have been created to desire and yearn for. A longing, in short, for a world that clearly reflects the love of God on a day-t0-day basis. This longing formulates our groaning. And this longing reveals the presence of hope in us, and in our world.
I am encouraged when I see the images of those candles, of those mourners. I find my heart growing larger and my breath catch in my chest when I think of the response of humanity to the open wounds that violence and terror have inflicted upon France and upon us all.
It was last Friday, prior to the Paris attacks and prior to seeing the response of people around the world, that I’d read something (read it again is more accurate) by CS Lewis in his book “The Magician’s Nephew.” Aslan the great lion whose voice was the first voice, the greatest and deepest voice, the voice that had sung the song of creation throughout the universe – he said:
“The world is bursting with life…because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground.”
That rumbling has not stopped. We might learn to ignore it at times. We can easily grow deaf to it from the business of our own individual lives and schedules, but that deafness should never be confused with the cessation of the rumble. That rumble is the same quaking that our souls feel when we see atrocity. That rumble is the same shaking that we experience as we long to comfort those who are hurting, or heal those who are broken. That rumbling is the deep cry of our hearts for redemption. That rumbling is Paul’s groaning creation, desperate for light to overcome darkness, for life to overcome death, for peace to overcome fear and for love to overcome hate.
May we take heart that the rumbling of the First Voice is not yet gone, but that life is still emerging in our world. As Christians we believe that God is not finished with us. We believe that His love still generates and creates, and His word restores and invents. And we do still believe that the pain we experience in these difficult times will give way to the infinite, unimaginable beauty of all that He is when He comes to make all things new.
Though death seems so near in times like these, Life is not far from Paris. Life is not far from us. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of how close it is. And try though it might to stamp out faith, hope and love, in the end evil can only really succeed in causing us to see those three all the more clearly.