“The outer world is only an expression of an inner, spiritual world,” the theologian Eugene Peterson wrote in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In other words, the violence and strife erupting around us are a produced by the violence and strife raging within us. If our spiritual world is broken, then our physical world will be as well.
I turned the page in the biography I was reading to my children about the life of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary to India in the early 1900s, when I came across a scene that typified what angers so many about the history of Christian missions: a procession of Indian servants carrying a group of British ministers and their wives on sedan chairs. For each missionary (other than Carmichael, who rode horseback), it took eight men to carry each chair.
This week as students and faculty are laid to rest in Parkland, Florida, I sat at my computer and studied their faces, praying for their families. I read about their too-short lives, gunned down on Valentine’s Day by a violent and mentally disturbed young man who should have never been allowed access to a gun. And I was shocked to discover my own name there.
It is a terrible time, when you have to talk to your children about what to do if they are confronted with a shooter. When you discover that another depraved, hate-fueled attack has shattered lives again, here in Florida or in a Nigerian village or the battered towns of Syria.