Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

How I Found Surprising Grace in Paris – Part 2

How I Found Surprising Grace in Paris Part 2
Chateau Chenonceau. Photo Credit: Jonathan Perrinet via Compfight cc

I only had Him. And He met me there, sweetly and unexpectedly. (Note: This is the second part to the story I started last week about finding surprising grace in Paris. Click here to read part one.)

Early April had left me lonely and longing for connection. Parts of me had melted towards Him, learned to speak to Him like He might want to hear. But this day, I was weary in the gray light, the kind of soul-deep tired that longs for nothing but sleep.

I’d spent the afternoon at Chateau Chenonceau, a sixteenth-century castle, meandering through stone corridors and opulent chambers like I was pacing through a fairytale. I’d wandered through perfectly manicured grounds and intricate gardens, looking for a quiet moment. The maze of hedges eventually gave way to woodlands untouched save for the damp, earthen pathways criss-crossing through. Oaks and ivy, tall old chestnut trees and fresh, soft grass and wildflowers everywhere.

There was a strange sensation of a hand in mine and a presence so strong I swore I’d turn my face and see Him. My heart burned like an Emmaus moment. Deep, warm words thrummed inside me: this is what it means when You say You’ll never leave or forsake me. On the grounds of a castle, I stood silent and far off from my group. The ground beneath my feet shifted a little; a few of the bricks walling off my heart crumbled.

I would go on for ten weeks. Ten weeks of wooing and heartache and telling Him of nightmares, of injustice in the streets, of fears and questions, of art I saw and loved and made, of words woven. Ten weeks of only opening my soul to Him. Ten weeks of only His voice in my ears, reshaping me inside, retraining some thoughts, preparing the soil.

There were beautiful surprises in those short weeks. A weekend at a wild charismatic conference and I felt I’d met the gospel for the first time and was struck dumb by the insanity of grace; another at a quiet monastery and I encountered millennia of mysticism and contemplative prayer, was swept deep in a stream of chants and scents and beautiful liturgy where my insides could rest. And there was Ireland, the place that gnawed on the edge of my soul and felt like a homecoming I’d never expected.

The greatest surprise of all: I was loved. And it was miraculous, and I was accepted and beloved and beautiful. I’m not sure when, but the endless internal scream melted into silence. I tasted my first sip of peace, then drank it deep. Is it possible to feel like this? Is this what it’s supposed to be like to be alive? I ran laughing in a rainstorm through Paris streets, soaked to the skin without an umbrella, Parisians looking on in dignified horror at this wild thing with arms flung wide.

And I tasted life, drew breath like the first time, took in colors that had never been so vibrant, strolled through cobblestone streets and soaked up history and language and everything was a gift, a gift I almost didn’t have.

I studied art and writing in Paris, studied the architecture of my soul and found a place it fit. Away from expectations and histories and family, I found me, a me worth loving and already so loved. No one to talk to, no one to please, and my school work a light load after balancing it with a full-time job and hours volunteering. The only voices I heard were those I filled my soul with: music and the Impressionists and good words from Shakespeare & Company.

And His. He spoke sweetly, constantly, faithfully. New truths took root that had never been there before. And I knew Him whom I’ve believed, knew Him by scent and song and the tone of His voice, not harsh like I’d suspected, but tender and kind.

Have you ever been surprised by grace, or by the kindness of God? Tell me about it in the comments!

Stay tuned for more of this story next week! If you think someone else may enjoy this, would you be kind enough to pass it along? 

5 Replies

  1. This is poetic, inspiring & so full of hope Sarah – thanks for continuing to share your story.

  2. Love this. Love your free spirit and always look forward to reading your words.

  3. I love the way you open your heart for all of us to see and connect with. This blog touched me deeply and brought healing tears out that needed to surface. Thanks for being faithful to write your story.

    1. Ree! Thank you for your kind words. I’m so grateful this touched your heart <3

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