When you’ve already accepted that God is good and God is beautiful, it is so easy to find Him in good and beautiful things, whether you’re flying through cotton candy clouds, watching life grow all around you in a garden, marveling at human works of art, or witnessing a kind act among strangers. You see these incredibly amazing things and simply know that God is there. It is incredibly easy then, to see God in every cobble-stoned street corner of Paris, deemed the most beautiful city in the world.
I’ve now been in Paris for just over 24 hours, and it is certainly everything they say it is, everything I thought it would be and so much more. And as I am continuously awed by the reality that I am here, finally – and sitting in a café in Montparnasse, sipping wine, ripping off pieces of baguette and cheese and writing — I’ve started to wonder, “what now?!” I’ve done it. I’ve gotten on an (amazing!!!!! Air France) jet plane and I’m here and I’m writing, so now what?
The answer is: nothing. And EVERYTHING. And anything. No more dreaming of living abroad. No more hoping “one day” would come. No more counting the hours until the flight. It’s here. I’m here. And for once in my life, I’m just going to be here.
As I’m thinking about the present and remaining as close as I can to it, I start thinking about my relationship with God. So much of my faith is based on His past faithfulness and His future promises. But the most significant words God uttered in the Bible were when He described Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:12: “I AM THAT I AM.” Yes, He “has been” in the past and “will be” in the future, but right now, He is all that I need: a faithful friend, a lover of my soul, a provider, a protector, a very present help in the time of trouble and everything that is beautiful.
But what about when the beautiful slowly slips away through the crevices of darkness? Where is God when life turns ugly?
As I arrived in Paris, I read about the death of best-selling author, noted fashion publicist and journalist Erica Kennedy. The 42-year-old beauty was found dead in her Miami home, and many expressed their heartbreak over Twitter and through their blogs. Where is God when someone so full of life and love and influence leaves seemingly before her time?
As I read through the fervent memories of Erica online, I began to see a pattern. She inspired so many, touched so many, connected so many and changed so many lives that she probably wasn’t even aware of what an awesome legacy she was leaving behind. But the most profound statement as a result of Erica’s death came from blogger Bassey Ikpi:
Thank you, Erica, for all you’ve done for me. I will honor your life and your legacy by yelling from the center of the universe, “I REFUSE TO LET [Bi-polar Disorder] TAKE ANOTHER [expletive] LIFE!”
And just like that, God.
Sometimes as Christians we shut down when we hear profanity or come into contact with people who worship God differently or do not believe in Christ altogether. When we do that, we end up missing God. The Psalmist says: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” [emphasis in original]. We cannot escape God, whether in darkness or light, in the midst of Heaven or the depths of Hell, God’s majesty is inescapably there. Even in the midst of our sins and the sins of others, God is there. “He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish [in their sins], but everyone to come to repentance.” Therefore, be patient with others and try to see the beauty of God, even where you might not think it likely.
In Erica’s death, Ms. Ikpi is more determined than ever to fight her disorder and win. If nothing else happens as a result of Erica’s death, if we only have Ms. Ikpi’s renewed resolve, we can see and celebrate the presence and hand of the almighty God who works everything for His beautiful purpose.
Right now, it’s nine o’clock at night in Paris, but the sky is as magically bright as it is in the late afternoon. As I meander through the delicate elegance of this city and her people, all I see is love and light and hope –a true reflection of God’s own beauty. And though I’m thousands of miles away from the comfort of home, I know that as long as I can find the beautiful, I am in His presence.
The challenge, then, is to find the beautiful wherever you go, wherever you are, in whatsoever state you are in. At the intersection of peace and beauty, holiness and goodness, we can always find God, and whenever we desire it, we can abide in His presence and stay there, come what may.
For help staying in His presence, try this free, seven-minute guided Christian meditation, “In His Presence*” from TheChristianMeditator.com. Right-click the sample audio that plays and hit “save as” to download it to your computer and start your mornings In His Presence!
*I’m not affiliated anyway with The Christian Meditator, I’ve just been very blessed by this meditation and wanted to share.
View of The Eiffel Tower from The Pantheon
Inside The Pantheon
Hermione in front of the Pantheon with the Eiffel Tour in the background
The Luxembourg Gardens
Artist on the street
Gargoyles was my absolute favorite cartoon as a kid, so this was a full-circle moment
The view from my cruise on the Seine River
God let Monet have a go at the sky today
La Tour Eiffel
Surely, Isildur guards this bridge
Diva’s in Paris!