Tuesday, January 14, 2014
You could label this as a bit of nonfiction. I felt compelled to write it this morning after seeing a picture of Notre Dame. I guess it's just a small reflection on my experience a year and a half ago.
When I first saw Notre Dame, it was like a dream. This place I've heard of all my life actually growing from the plot of land immediately in front of me. Beautiful and striking. Massive yet refined. Abby and I walked around for a while inside - I can only describe it as "overwhelming." Overwhelming in a way only Paris could overwhelm me as I soon came to find out. That city - even more specifically that square surrounding Notre Dame - changed my life. How cliche, I know. Honestly, though, I find it fitting that I turned 20 in that city, leaving my teens in a whirlwind and for the first time really feeling like an adult. I left Paris with a burden of fear for the life of my best friend in the world, but also armed with the knowledge of my ability for resourcefulness and awash with the love and kindness of family, friends, and strangers.
I see the front facade of Notre Dame in that picture above and remember so clearly staring at it through a taxi window with a hopelessness I'd never before encountered, a loneliness I'd never before known. Dad and I went back to the church together after Phil and Kathryn left Paris. I wanted him to see it so badly, I wanted to share my love for this church with him, and I was so mad when he was too distracted to see it for the first time as I had seen it. Who was I mad at though? I'm not totally sure, even now. I don't think I was mad at anyone. It just hurt inside to know that my dad, who in any other circumstance would have been in absolute awe of this wonder of the world, had to duck outside of the church to answer a phone call about my sister needing another surgery. We grabbed McDonald's ('Murica) and went back to the hospital that night, barely mentioning Notre Dame.
I believe it was in the church that second time that I became aware of my dad's intense distress. The whole time I'd been talking on the phone with him before he got to Paris, he was this infallible rock, finding me places to stay, encouraging me, praying with me. I was so absorbed by own fear, my own survival instinct that I hadn't stopped to consider that my dad - the man who has only ever cared, loved, and provided most excellently for his family - was being forced to stand back and simply watch as doctors worked to help Abby. Abby, normally the embodiment of vivacity and health, was weak and pale and as scared as the rest of us. In Paris, I saw my dad weep for the first time. But in Paris, I also saw so clearly a Father's love for His children.
If I ever see Notre Dame again in real life - and I pray I do - I wonder what I'll do and what I'll feel. Is it dramatic to think about this? Most likely, but let's be real, I am a drama queen. I think I want to go inside, sit in the pews, and pour out thankfulness to God for His faithfulness and His provision, thanking Him that Abby is skiing and running and teaching and laughing and living. Thank Him that thinking of Paris now, although my heart still pounds anxiously sometimes, mostly just makes me think of my family, of love, of relief, and of a peace that surpasses all understanding.