When I stepped off the plane at Charles deGaulle Airport in Paris, France two months ago, I very quickly learned their unspoken, number one rule: to enter the city, you must be in love. (The soldiers armed with machine guns that met me at the airport and at the subway station and in the square in front of Notre Dame were surely there to enforce this rule). But, don’t worry: it is impossible NOT to find something in Paris to be in love with.
For starters, the smell. I never knew I could love a smell so much. Defying the chain-smoking and the stereotype that the French are smelly people, the air in Paris is a magically sweet mixture of fresh bread and fresh flowers and fresh fruit and fresh LIFE. (Admittedly, the pleasantness of the smell does depend on where exactly you are in Paris, but I had the great fortune of living very near to the amazing Luxembourg Gardens, where I sat and wrote and sun-bathed and wrote some more, nearly every day.)
Of course, I wasn’t going to Paris with the hope that my nose would fall in love with something. Paris is a city of romance, after all, and it reminds you of that salient point every second that you’re out in public. Its streets and squares and parks and gardens are lined with couples who are clearly under contract with the city to make-out aggressively in every possible public place one could make out. Seriously, the love-fests I observed would make Howard Stern blush. And it is not just the young people doing it. Nearly everybody is coupled up and making out: Old, young, Black, White, and everyone in between. And the interracial couples! I don’t think I have seen so many African women lovingly coupled-up with French men in my life and dangit, I wanted in on that!
But God did me one better: He brought me to a place where the focus would no longer be on me and what I wanted and the attention I was looking for. In Paris, it was ALL about Him. And it’s not just about the absolute and majestic beauty one can behold in Paris (which I blogged about with pics HERE). It was about being reborn into a paradise where it was nearly impossible for me to communicate, with no mother to identify my needs by the pitch of my cry. And as a result, I was forced to just be still, just listen and observe and take it all in. It was in this new quiet space that He taught me to see Him with a baby’s eyes.
I saw Him in the late night Jesus talks I had with my amazing, gay, Puerto Rican, Catholic, poet, dormmate. I saw Him in every unashamedly affectionate couple on every street corner. I saw Him in the elderly French man who couldn’t understand my Franglais but still insisted on carrying my heavy suitcase up flights of stairs and then walking me to the place I couldn’t understand how to get to. (That happened at least 4 times while I was in Paris. Most all of the French people I encountered were beyond kind!) The hand of God was in every beautiful friendship I made this summer that I pray will never fade away. And through all of these people, I finally got the point:
“For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall NOT perish, but have everlasting life.” The love of God’s life is YOU. It’s me. It’s US. God said,”Let US make man in Our image.” His people — not just Christians, but the entirety of His creation — are the face of God and the absolute loves of His life. There is nothing He wouldn’t do for us, nothing He hasn’t already done for us through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. No good thing would He withhold from us. How different would the world be if we each believed that simple truth that WE ARE THE LOVE OF GOD’S LIFE?! How many hurtful words and deeds would we swallow if we understood that, “This is the love of God’s life right here! I couldn’t possibly hurt this person.” How many dangerous, unhealthy, unfruitful relationships would we walk away from if we truly believed that we are the loves of God’s life and the loves of God’s life deserve better than left-overs!
Christ told His disciples in Matthew 18:3, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Christ gave us the most elementary commands — love God, love your neighbor as yourself — but we find it so hard to do. We think, “surely God doesn’t want me to love this person. Doesn’t He know what this guy did to me” or “what this guy did to so-and-so,” or [insert good excuse why you don’t have to love this person]. But God requires us to have the childlike faith to believe that though we can’t see it or understand it, He’s got it under control.
So, let’s pretend for a moment that God is who He says He is — the ultimate judge and jury — and we are finite beings who cannot see the whole picture. What if we trusted Him when He says we don’t have to judge anybody because He’ll take care of it, in this life or the next? What if we could silence our egos enough to believe like children that can simply trust God enough to relinquish whatever hurt, anger, disappointment and hatred we’re holding on to that is preventing us from seeing our enemies/opponents/adversaries as the love of God’s life?
It is a heavy burden to walk around with judgment in our hearts. Jesus knows that. That’s why He told us to switch burdens with Him, and “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Why not let Him do what He was created to do –carry the weight of judgment on His shoulders — and we do what we’ve been equipped to do: love God and see His face in everyone we meet so we can love them too?
At the BEST Moroccan Restaurant I’ve ever been to with the absolute best company 🙂
My girls! In front of the Bastille where Marie Antoinette spent her last days.
In front of the Notre Dame and the Seine on my 3rd day in Paris!
My lovelies! In front of the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore in St. Michel
The YOLO crew on top of the Notre Dame!
On the Locks of Love bridge! People put padlocks on the bridge with their name and their loved one’s name so love will last forever!
If you’ve ever climbed to the top of Notre Dame, you understand why I was so excited to have made it back down!
In Montmartre on the way to see the Sacre Coeur
Random people cuddling in public
Everybody cuddles in Paris
I kind of stalked a bunch of couples like they were art. SO?! WHO GON CHECK ME BOO???
I just love this 🙂
More Locks of Love on the Bridge
Even old folks were getting in on the action!
I get it. Paris just makes you want to kiss somebody!
My parents came to visit me in Paris for their 30th wedding anniversary! Love everywhere!