Coffee Stains: Lost in ParisAuthor: David Porter
The United States is a relatively young nation and that’s nice if you’re trying to go somewhere. I’m good at getting lost, or passing the street I was supposed to turn onto. In lots of places in the States, you just turn right, then turn right again, then turn right and you’re back where you started because many of the towns and cities are laid out in a square plan.
I suspect we owe that, at least in part, to a Frenchman. Pierre L’enfant, designed Washington City, the capital of the infant nation, more or less like that and I think that many cities must have copied the plan. I also suspect L’enfant may have done it like this because he was born in Paris, and may have spent a good part of his young life lost, looking for the right street.
Paris is a 2000+ year old lady. I’m sure there is some kind of logic in her street plan but I must admit that it escapes me. If you miss your street in Paris and try to take the next right to make up for your error, you may find yourself in Belgium, or Strasbourg, or Marseille before you get turned around.
That’s assuming you can even turn right. More than once I’ve said to myself, “You should have turned there!” So I look for the next street that goes to the right in order to go around and get back on my street. Except the next street right is one way, the wrong way; so I go to the next street, which is also one way, the wrong way.
If you’re not careful, you may be looking at the North Sea before you find a right turn.
It’s a little game. I think the city planners design the streets, then sit in a war room called “Traffic Central” somewhere. When they see a hapless driver like me they giggle madly, “Look, there’s one! Watch now! Ha, ha, ha! It’s really funny to watch these idiots try to find their way.”
Where is Pierre L’Enfant when you need him?
My guess is that Paris streets came about when young Pierre led his goat to the river each day. They left a trail that little Pierre followed with his goats that, over the years, became a distinct, winding path. Somebody eventually paved it and, voilà!, a major street.
There were probably a lot of little Pierres who led their goats around the region and these little paths became the DNA of the modern Paris street map. If it was that way or not, one thing is true– if you see me in Paris I’m probably lost or in a traffic jam. Often I’m lost AND in a traffic jam.
I just can’t capture the logic of the Paris street system.
But you know, that’s not the only logic I don’t understand. I can’t understand God either. I can’t grasp why in the world He would forgive my sins if I asked Him to, and turned away from my sins. Forgiveness is much harder than that for me. But He forgave a ton of sins in my life.
I can’t understand why He loved me (and you) so much that He went to the Cross to die for our sins. I can’t figure it out—He lived in the most incredible place you could imagine, He had angels to cater to His every whim, He was the most powerful Being in the universe. And He left all that to do for me?
I fail to grasp why He’s so patient with me because I would have zapped me into a crispy critter a long time ago if I had been God. Why in the world would he say that I was His greatest joy? (Zephaniah 3:17, French version). Why would He want to spend eternity with me (and you)? It’s not like He couldn’t choose His company.
God’s way of thinking is beyond me.
“Seek God while he’s here to be found,
pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life
and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
(Isaiah 55:6-11, The Message)
I don’t understand Paris’ streets but that doesn’t keep me from appreciating a beautiful city. I don’t always understand how God thinks but that doesn’t keep me from plunging into His promises with all my heart.
In them I’m never lost or stuck in traffic!
And you? Are you having a hard time accepting God’s forgiveness, or the fact that He wants to work for you? Or simply the facts that He loves you incredibly? You may not understand it but it’s for you all the same. Plunge in!