Finding God in Paris
Language shapes the ways in which we experience the world — including how we encounter God and navigate faith. Or at least, this has been my experience. A few years ago, my school dream of someday visiting Paris became a reality. Preparing for that dream (mostly reading travel blogs, listening to French podcasts and completing language exercises on DuoLingo) stirred a sense of urgency to know that God was at work in France.
I developed an awareness that my experience of following Jesus was largely in English and mostly in America. I wanted to know that God — and my faith — weren’t constrained by language or culture. Part of me feared that I would go to Paris in search of God and not find Him there. It was strange — but this became the major objective of my trip. I wanted to see God in Paris, and I wanted to experience Him at work in French.
And I did.
I experienced God in action at one of the first stops of my adventure — Temple du Marais, a Protestant church in the Marais neighborhood of Paris. I attended a service in French where I understood roughly 30-40% of the sermon (I think). I felt God at work not through the sermon, but also through the greetings and passing of peace, and through the voices faithfully singing songs with melodies I didn’t recognize, words I didn’t know. I experienced God’s grace through the church members who welcomed me with warmth (and patience for my broken French) during their greeting time.
At Imago, there are times during our seven minutes of meet-and-greet time when I sense the Holy Spirit at work — moving through our friendly smiles, sleepy hellos, awkward silences, hugs and across-the-room waves.
But God was also at that church. I looked for Him, and there he was — alive and well through the Church. Even in a different culture and language — I sensed the same work happening there.
What drove my desire to experience God in France was more than just a desire to learn another language. My experience of faith until that point had been largely American (in American English). It was strange, but I was intent on seeing that God was present and at work in the hearts of people in another country and culture. With that urgency was a fear that I would go to Paris, in search of God, and not feel Him there.
But I felt God in Paris, just as I felt Him in Peoria at Imago Dei. I felt God with me there just as I feel Him here. His love remains true and moves beyond borders and languages, through the love that we show one another.
God was there. And God is here. God is with us.
Laura works as a marketing strategist for a local healthcare company and an adjunct professor at Greenville University. She enjoys leading worship at Imago, heartfelt conversations, communication theory, authentic travel experiences, melancholy music, the smell of peonies and the sound of ocean waves. In case you were wondering, she is a 4 with a 5 wing on the Enneagram, an I/ENFP and her top five strengths are Intellection, Connectedness, Strategic, Learner and Input. She dreams of returning to Paris one day.