I have long been an admirer of all things French. I first studied the language for a year in high school. Dazzled by the poetic tempo of the words, I thought I would minor in French in college. The first day of class, everyone got to choose a French derivation of their names that sounded similar to their actual names, just with a French flavor added to them. But the instructor said my name didn't sound French. Instead, he dubbed me “Brigitte.” I didn’t much care for the name but I had to answer to Brigitte for the next two years.
I was excited to start studying my favorite language, dreaming of stringing French sentences together like a native. Until we covered everything I had learned in high school during the first six weeks of my initial semester. And I made a D on my first test. French dreams swirling down the drain, I changed my minor to history.
I still was required to take two years of a language for my Bachelor of Arts degree and I stuck with French. I spent many an afternoon in the language lab, listening to a female voice drum French verbs and phrases into my head. I put in a lot of hard work and managed to pass the classes. But I don’t remember much French now. Certainly not enough to navigate the arrondissements of Paris. (Ah, I do remember something! The French word for neighborhoods.)
I’m a reluctant traveler. If I have to go somewhere, I’d much rather drive than fly. My idea of a long trip is an hour drive to the beach. Or at the most, I’ll tolerate a seven-hour drive to Atlanta. And only because I love the culture, history and shopping there. It coaxes me, leading me forward.
I'm apprehensive about flying. Packing items in appropriately weighed and sized luggage? Determining which liquids, such as my vitally important cosmetic items, will fit in a single Ziploc bag? Putting my belongings on a conveyor belt through the airport scanning machine? It all unnerves me. Makes me anxious. I’d rather stay safely at home where I have all my lotions and potions available to me in generous quantities.
But I really want to go to Paris. My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve read all of his work. I'm captivated by every letter he and Zelda penned to each other. I'm intrigued by the correspondence between Scott and his editor Max Perkins. I want to see the apartment on the Rue de Tilsitt near the Arc de Triomphe where Scott and Zelda lived. I want to experience all that the most romantic city in the world has to offer. The famous fashions of the Parisians, the French pastries, the cafes, the museums. I want to see it all.
But I’m a little afraid. My knees are a little shaky and my heart races a little. A lot of little fears sometimes stand in the way of a life more beautiful. A life I was meant to experience and enjoy, despite the risks and insecure places I might find myself in. I won’t let my limitations and fears take precedence. I’m going to stretch. I’m going to move forward. But I’m also going to trust. I’m going to lean into God’s promises. Because there in that place of promise, I can find calm. Reassurance. Confidence.
Paris is my next place of promise on my journey. The French have a phrase to describe the enjoyment and exuberance of life: joie de vivre.
I want it too.
I want it too.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13