I don’t think I would be speaking for only myself if I said that the terrorist attack on Friday night in Paris made me feel scared, helpless, and sick. I was at work when I first saw CNN’s coverage of the breaking news in Paris. At five, it was time to go home, but I had a rising anxiety as I got on the Blue Line. In my mind, it was our Any Other Friday Night starting, so why wouldn’t it happen here?
I was so anxious that I almost puked.
Thankfully, I made it to my stop and took stairs to surface at Chicago Avenue. The cool air touched my face and calmed my nerves. Over the weekend, I started to ask myself an important question: As a Christian, how is it that these evil attacks bring me to a level of such fear and powerlessness?
Today, I still have not reached any kind of definitive answer. All the reasonable parts of my mind remind me that we are told not to fear more than any other reminder in scripture. We are already told that this world is dark, but we are called to be light. We are called to forgive our enemies, but to also hate what is evil and love what is good. Do not return evil with evil. Jesus says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” This leaves me standing in a murky puddle of hope and confusion as I process these events.
Since September 11th, I don’t know that I have seen or heard of such evil; one report stated that ISIS recruitment called for attackers to wear GoPro’s as they carried out their siege. After hearing that specific detail, I lost it. I sat there and wept for every single person that has lost their life to such savage acts that will never make sense. I reached a boiling point of hate towards evil. And even in the confusion, I know that prayer for others and the world is still, and will always be, the answer.
I have seen social media postings that say we should forget religion and prayer, because the answer is to retaliate … but if we are honest, what would that solve? When we allow ourselves to believe that violence is an answer to violence, we step into the footprints of fear. More than anything right now, we need hope. If we do not have hope, we have nothing. Prayer is the hope that Good still exists and that we can still fight for that.
That night, my own prayer was for hearts of hatred to be turned to hearts for humanity. That people would feel comforted and known by a tenderhearted God that is weeping with this world, but is also just as angry over the injustice. And I prayed that I would not allow fear to drive my heart and mind.
I also recall that we have been here before. The terrorists from September 11th took our caregivers by surprise, too. I’m sure they looked at our little faces, held our little hands and made a thousand whispered promises to themselves to keep us from harm. But here we are, standing in our grown bodies and whispering these same promises to ourselves, our children, our future. We bear witness to the depths of evil once again, and this time we take cues from what we knew as a child. We know that life will continue to go on and our days will continue to unfold. We know that it is not a matter of “if” but of “when.” So we must ask ourselves what to do with the time in between?
We unite. We hope. We refuse to allow ourselves become locked in by fear. This is what will get me by as my days continue.