Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Paris Desert

I have recently asked a few friends to share with us their lives and write a bit on our blog. When they write, I'll post this fun little button that I figured out how to make on Here we go...

My sweet friend, Lydia, agreed to share a little about drinking deeply of the Lord while in lonely desert places. She is a recent graduate of Texas A&M and is currently working with Breakaway Ministries in College Station. I first met Lydia about a year ago and have loved seeing her heart as she trusts the Lord. Her last few months have been filled with running a marathon, traveling to Prague and helping me stuff envelopes until midnight. I'm sure the latter has been the highlight of this semester :). She loves to write, so I asked her to share a little about her journey as she transitions from college student to the working world and how Paris brought more to her than fascinating art and tempting pastries.

One of my favorite songs of late has the lyrics, “Love moves. Remember from where love has moved you; the finding of something beautiful in the desert of my soul.” (written by Matthew and Lizi Bailey)

This is the story of my life, but I was unable to sing it with full understanding until a couple of years ago. I studied abroad in Paris for four weeks the summer before my junior year of college. While I have hundreds of pictures documenting all of the incredible sights, I find myself drawn instead to look back on my journals from that month.

I remember sitting on the plan flying to Paris by myself and feeling pretty scared but trying to convince myself that this is what I had chosen, and everything would be okay. I also knew that the Lord had allowed me to go alone and, even if I had second thoughts about my decision, I knew He had a purpose for bringing me out to this desert.

Now, before you start laughing at me calling Paris a desert, let me clarify. Paris was fabulous, with amazing pastries on every corner, people speaking French (the most beautiful language in my opinion) all around me, and some of the most breathtaking churches and art museums in all of Europe. It was a dream come true for me. At the same time, I was there without a friend. All of the people I met in my program were clearly not Christians and had completely different values from me. I was staying by myself in an apartment with a 66 year-old woman who only spoke french, and I was hardly fluent. I communicated with my best friend through lengthy facebook messages. I talked to my mom on the phone, but I shied away from being too honest about any of my fears or feelings of loneliness.

There were nights when I walked home to my apartment, feeling so under attack. It was as if Satan was hiding behind every building waiting to jump out and pounce on me. I was believing lies that I had believed for years, but they had never looked so dazzlingly tempting. In Paris and among my friends in the study abroad program, appearance meant so much. At that time, appearance held a pretty high place in my own heart, but I was trying to fight this tug in my heart away from God and toward the things of the world. I knew this idol was making me miserable, but I didn’t know how to escape from its hold on me.

One day, I wrote this in my journal while sitting in the Louvre:
It is overwhelming - the colors, the technical skill, the history, the residence of the paintings themselves in a magnificent palace. Seeing them all together - tributes to God, to monarchs, to the human body, to the depth of one’s own emotions and feelings - it makes me realize how transient this life is. We follow fashions. We do what is popular and accepted. Sometimes in our struggle to understand ourselves as individuals and make others acknowledge our uniqueness, we rebel and make a strong statement for all to hear or see. What I see in these paintings is, first of all, a beauty that is endowed by our Creator. Second, I see our flawed human attempts to capture life and derive meaning from what we see. But, we can have a glimpse of what is real, a shadow of what is to come. The most beautiful paintings, in my opinion, strive to show what is lacking in a flat, one-dimensional view of the world. There is more there than meets the eye. There is the depth of the soul. There are the emotions that lie beneath the surface. There is the reality of the Holy Spirit in us and the angels all around us. There is the past and the future seen all in a flash, as God sees time.

Paris was a vast, beautiful desert in which I felt small and ugly. I wish I could say that I was victorious there. Instead, it was months before I fully confessed my love affair with all that glitters. For the first time, I believed that Jesus’ love truly satisfies and that He is worth giving up everything to follow. How did I reach that point of surrender? He had shown me the desert of my soul when it was weighed down by desires for cheap, perishable imitations of the eternal.

Praise the Lord that “love moves.” My response to remembering the pouring out of God’s grace on my life is to fight for others. I have never experienced greater joy than when I have been able to share this hope with other wandering souls, trapped beneath the cares of this world.

Romans 8 is rich with the truth that set me free. I pray that today you take time to “remember from where love has moved you” and set your mind on the Spirit, which is life and peace.
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