I was in bed on Friday night when I got a FB notification from a friend who works in a newsroom, asking if we were okay. I looked at the news before responding so I could understand what she was talking about.
Of course we were okay. We were home in bed, but my brother-in-law lives in the area, and is frequently out at night. That night was no different. We sent him a message, then searched on the Internet for more developments. A friend marked me “safe” on Facebook.
The next morning felt bleak. I explained to the kids what had happened and they absorbed it, but then quickly went back to play, and their chatter filled the household. I was tempted to be angry at them for their lack of understanding, but then I remembered:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I accepted their insouciance as part of life. I texted my best (Muslim) friend and sent her virtual hugs. She sent them back. We got word from my brother-in-law that all was well.
I’d planned to have a Bible study with a friend and she didn’t want to cancel. So I picked her up at the train station and brought her to my house and we studied. It was good.
That afternoon my friends decided not to attend the charity gala that we had planned on driving to together that night.
I still wanted to go. I didn’t want to give in to fear, and I thought it would be a healing sort of evening – not one where people tried to forget through senseless revelry, but one where people remembered and carried on in a spirt of love and courage. Our church was using the gala to raise money to provide sachets of hygienic products to go with the sandwiches that we* distribute each week to the homeless, among which number some refugees. (*in disclosure, “we” means as a church – I have only been a couple of times)
I felt empty after they canceled. Did my friends think I had no heart because I still wanted to go? Did they think I was so quickly ready to get on with life? It’s true, I face these events in a spirit of numbness and the stubborn determination to soldier on. My feelings seep out slowly over time, in this little facet or in that.
In my bleakness, I went outside and started digging around the bay laurel tree that we want to uproot and replace with a cherry tree.
It took so long to make so little a dent that I stood back to survey my handiwork. It was like moving a mountain.
But then I remembered a mountain is moved one mustard seed of faith at a time. I continued to chip away at the roots, and my husband came out to help. My friends texted back to reassure me. No, they did not think I was heartless at all. They understood that everyone grieves differently.
I curled my hair, put on a long dress and extra coats of mascara, and we went. Juliet cried from fear, but I assured her that we were not going to be in Paris proper, and that it was a private event which no one knew about. We were perfectly safe. Still, we prayed together and I promised to text the young neighbor who was staying with them the moment we arrived and the moment we were ready to leave.
The evening was heart-warming. Olivier had worked the entire day to set the flower arrangements in place. They were … extravagant.
(I got to take this one home)
Bernard was on his feet cooking all day, and countless others helped with the food preparation and the decorations.
Etienne and Annick worked tirelessly as they always do to see to the arrangements. Annick bustled about all night, without cease – in a beautiful dress, her face radiant, and her shaved head exposed for the first time since she began her battle with cancer. I love her.
The teens and college students, and even some of the younger singles dressed up in black dresses, or white shirts with bow ties, and they served us.
We ate a creamy lentil soup appetiser with toast, crème fraiche, and sprinkled with nuts, mushroom risotto with seafood and a cream sauce, a selection from the cheese platter, and chocolate mousse set on a patisserie for dessert. It was delicious.
We listened to the good that is being done each week through the ministry to the homeless, and then we listened to the perfect entertainment that had been professionally rehearsed.
On Sunday, the Town Hall in Paris canceled our church service, along with all public assemblies. So we had house church in our home. Bernard – along with Francine and Rado – stayed up until 4:30 in the morning, cleaning up after the gala. They were there for church in the morning. Other families assembled with us.
Matthieu led a worship service, interspersed with scriptures, songs, and prayers. He reminded us of Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Who are we fighting against? Let’s keep our perspective on who because it’s not against flesh and blood.
My perspective is this: Isis wants us to mistrust Muslims and the Syrian refugees, and to start hating them to the point of rising up against them in civil war. ISIS want us to begin their “holy war” for them. They want the violence to escalate. But let’s not do that. Let’s not join them in a hatred that blindly charges an entire religion or a race as guilty, and condemns them as the enemy!
No. We are not fighting against flesh and blood. Our battle is against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We had lunch after our mini service and Lord’s Supper, and then my friend was ready for another Bible study. Matthieu and Patrick worked outside to continue to (try and) uproot the mountainous bay laurel tree while Elizabeth and I studied with my friend and our kids played together.
All things considered, it was a victorious weekend when I look back on how we coped – victories overriding the defeat. Sometimes it seems there is a mountain of spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. But by digging and digging and chipping away, the mountain will be uprooted.
Even if it’s not until the end of the age.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.