Bethany Haley Williams' book points us to numerous souls who have suffered the brokenness of the world, and yet found there nonetheless remnants and shards of beauty. Helen Keller, for example, that blind-and-deaf lover of life, once remarked that 'although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it'. Or Khalil Gibran: 'Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars'. Or G.K. Chesterton: 'Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.'
Bethany also points us to a counter-intuitive, I would say almost prophetic, cultural insight: that in the midst of the scars and blood of war in the woods of Africa, she has encountered very little self-pity; and yet here in the midst of overly much, she finds a correspondence between our wealth and our sense of entitlement. In the midst of such horror as rape-of-children-as-weapons-of-war, she finds a correspondence with gratitude for simple daily bread, for tribal customs and dance, and thanksgiving, for the love of God.
This observation then brings up yet another consideration: namely, what is there for us beyond our observations of the world's brokenness? It is a sort of sophomoric theological attainment to come to realize the graphic depths to which suffering and evil are capable. But only to observe this contributes no beauty; to face the world's brokenness, to face our own brokenness, is a necessary first step; but the most important question is whether there is a next step or steps beyond, whether in perseverance, we will make our own contributions to the beauty springing up in little patches out of the midst of weeds and blood and brokenness of human history. So Bethany quotes Albert Einstein: 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.'
Or we might dare supplement Einstein and say that the world is a dangerous place 'because of those who do not contribute to the beauty of the world'. So, let us go forth to sow seeds of beauty and peace-making, to speak words of comfort and kindness, to learn again to dance and play with children, and to sing songs of justice and the love of God.
Dr. Lee Camp, Professor of Theology and Ethics, Lipscomb University