It has been nine years since I walked your streets. I still remember how enamoured I was with your glittering storefronts and charming street side cafes. How in your dirtiness, you remain beautiful. I have seen your sights, breathed your air, eaten your baguettes, basked in your gentle sunshine. You are, to everyone, the city of lights, the city of romance, the fashion capital. You are the grand dame that the world admires and also secretly envies. And in this moment, the you are showing your grief and anger and pain.
The world mourns with you. Society is angered on your behalf. You know that many in the world stand with you in crying for justice. Many who don’t normally pray now lift up their hands in prayer for you. Oh, how you are loved.
I weep, as I remember the view of the city spread in front of me from the towers of Sacre Cœur. I cry for the lost souls and the broken lives that hide beneath the picture-perfect image. Amidst the bloodshed, I pray that your people find comfort and solace in the One who shed his blood willingly.
I pray for those who mourn, that the Lord grant your beauty from your ashes. That you have the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and garments of praise instead of a faint spirit. That you may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. That in all things, God may be glorified.
I pray for the 13-year-old who struggles with understanding what is happening to the city he calls home. The teenager who, as a toddler, had cheerily beckoned me to sit next to him and his mother on the Metro, one early Saturday morning in October. I pray that the joy of the Lord will be his strength.
I pray for the young lady I saw stepping out of her walk-up apartment in Montmarte. Dressed in her red overcoat and boots, stepping into the cool autumn morning. She could have been in the Stade or in Bataclan, facing her mortality in the middle of the night. I pray that she finds comfort as she finds Jesus.
I pray for the old man who sat on the park bench in front of the Palais-Royale, watching the pigeons dip in the fountain with the yellow submarine. He has seen much in his lifetime, and perhaps last Friday made his grey head bow even lower in grief over a long and tiring life. I pray that he finds the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Beautiful, proud, defiant, and strong – Paris, I know you will not take this standing down. I know you will not cower in fear or wallow in grief. But still I pray.
I pray that you see through the rage and the tears. That you realise and understand that God will administer justice on your behalf – but you have to accept his terms. I pray that you find forgiveness, both for yourself and for those who have hurt you.
Amidst all the grand declarations of support and solidarity from the rest of the world, I can only offer you this – that I shed tears for you, and your children. And that in this small corner of the world, I am praying for your soul.
I love you, Paris. Not because you are beautiful and glamorous and popular. But because you are broken and helpless and empty. And the blood that ran through your streets remind me of the blood on the cross that restored my brokenness, transformed my helpless state, and filled me to overflowing.
May you find beauty in the brutality, as I have found in the death of Jesus my Saviour.
Republished on saved.ph on 17 November 2015.