If you would have told the me in this picture, the me of 4 days ago, that Notre Dame would go up in flames, I wouldn’t have believed you. Having walked the city for thirteen miles the previous day, we were tired, on the last leg of our 36-hour jaunt in the city before returning to our friends’ house on the outskirts of Paris. “You at least have to see Notre Dame,” I told my fourteen-year-old. “You can’t go to Paris and not see Notre Dame.”
Three days later, back in London, watching the cathedral engulfed in flame on BBC News, I wondered if this statement would be tragically and irrevocably altered: Would anything of Notre Dame remain to be seen? It’s a tragic blow to the heart of a passionate city. A huge loss.
Nothing lasts. What was considered fixed, sure, unmovable, no longer is. It’s not the first time we’ve been shocked by such unexpected and sudden destruction: Twin Towers. Grenfell Tower. Countless buildings, homes, historical artifacts lost to wars all over the world. Sadly, it won’t be the last.
Well, not nothing. Almost nothing.
Two things. That’s it. Two earthly things will remain: the Word of God, and people.
Last night, as we watched Notre Dame burn, we received news that friends of friends were killed in a car accident while on holiday.
Last night, as we watched Notre Dame burn, we heard from friends whose child is suffering severely yet doctors can give no answers, no relief.
These tragedies, this kind of human suffering, and countless others, force us to prioritize the loss of Notre Dame. Not erase the loss, not let it go un-mourned, prioritize it. God did not become flesh, die, and rise again to save buildings or animals or nature or the planet; he came to save people. We are the prize of his creation, we are imprinted with his image. Human loss is a tragedy. like no other. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, he wept moments before he raised him back to life.
We humans are born rebels, beloved, and in his image. We are granted the freedom and ability to do awful things and beautiful things. We are implored to seek the Lord while he may be found and call on him while he is near. We are able to imagine and create things like great cathedrals that point to someone higher, someone greater, someone who always was and will always be.
I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One. (Revelation 1:8)
But the Word of the Lord remains forever. (1 Peter 1:25)
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)
And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)
…dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6)