I like this quote by Thomas Jefferson. He was right; walking about Paris provides lots of lessons. Here is one that I learned.
Living in Paris, one of the most challenging things for me was knowing when I could act like I did stateside and get away with it and when that behavior would never work. This story is about a situation where my southern stateside behavior was not going to be helpful!
So let me digress a bit. Okay, so the truth is that even though I am a New Yorker by birth, the sweet southern ways of the Carolinas pulled me in quickly. I often say I got here as soon as I could.
I remember the first time I went to the grocery store here in the South. At the time, our town was little and sleepy and just so comfortable for me. Of course, today, that has changed a bit. We are now exploding at the seams!
But on that first day as a Southerner, I went to the local grocery store with my list in hand and set about my business of getting what I needed. A young woman with her kids was in the very first aisle. As I made my way past her, the kids and the mom looked up and said, “Hey.” Hey? What does “hey” mean? (A helpful footnote here- hay isn’t just for horses. Hey to the south is a Hi or Hello to the north.) In aisle two, there was an older gentleman, and he, too, raised his eyes to me and said, hey. I was getting nervous and sweating a bit at this new strange way of greeting people. Why were all these people talking to me? They don’t know me! I soon learned that everyone would say hey, and I had better get used to it. It was the Southern way!
Twenty-seven years in the South have made their mark on me. I say “hey” now with the rest of them. Living somewhere different demands that you change your ways or stick out like a SORE thumb.
Fast forward to my years in Paris. From my apartment building’s large front door, I stepped out into a world of rushing and, at times-crushing crowds. There was no gentle southern way to get into the throng on the sidewalk. If you waited for an opening, you would wait all day. Just walk out and rush along with them.
My now-ingrained Southern ways were being put to the test…I had to dig into my past and grab hold of my NY ways. I needed them for survival. It didn’t take me long to realize that my gentle behavior was causing me some problems. I spent most of my time dodging oncoming, no-nonsense, and definitely NOT slowing down throngs of pedestrians. I often stepped off into the street to let people by. Better to be killed by a passing moped than a throng of walkers! And then, one day, a new reality hit me. I could do life the French way! I, too, could look down at the ground and walk unswervingly. I could win this game of chicken.
And so, from that day on, I realized my new power-to be French. I began to own the sidewalk. I plowed forward and dominated the sidewalk in my black London Fog raincoat, always with a colorful scarf. People would try to unnerve my resolve, but I had a mission. I was staying on the sidewalk! And fortunately, the sea of humanity parted.
There were some close calls- once, a younger French man came right at me and gave way to me at the VERY LAST minute; he realized I was older with a touch of grey in my hair and very determined. Of course, I heard some French words being spoken quite loudly, but this was one time when not understanding French came in handy. Once I had this new power, I would show anyone visiting how to do it. I won the game of chicken! Was this the right way to be? I am not sure, but it helped me survive the sidewalks of Paris!
Okay, so what does that have to do with anything? Well, here is the tie-in. As believers in Jesus, we have been given powerful tools (weapons) to help us navigate this life. One of those tools is the shield of faith. When I think of how the shield of faith helps me, I envision myself on the sidewalks of Paris. Shield held out in front of me, leaning entirely on what Jesus did for me on the cross, and with a determined and unswerving stance, forward I go! The shield of faith is powerful, and when I remember to employ it, I see waves part and the enemy flee. I might hear some words of deterrence flung my way, but I keep moving. Can you see it?
Have you experienced the protection and power of walking with the shield of faith up? Walking behind a large shield of gloriously God-given faith and moving into whatever God wants you to do. This is how it is meant to be. Our tools and weapons are heavenly when our citizenship is in heaven. Faith means leaning your whole weight on Jesus. So, the next time you are asked to walk by faith, grab that shield, hold it in front of you, and walk like you own the sidewalk. Your very own Father in Heaven, the One who provides the shield to you, most certainly does!
[Eph 6:10-18 NLT] 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
4 thoughts on “A Parisian Game of Chicken!”
Ok, I am so laughing as the memories of Italy roll across my mind because of your story. In Italy it was the first person to make eye contact that has to move aside (unless it is a group of Chinese—they own the walkway, streets, and everything else!). Many a visiting tourist I advised to “just keep looking down” to have them gleefully exclaim later, “It works!” lol. Ah yes, the school of dodge & dart vs. “plowing” through has so many applications!
Diane McGehee firstname.lastname@example.org
“Strong and powerful is he who obediently carries out His word.” Joel 2:11 (AMP)
Diane- I remember Florence well:). It does work!!! Thanks for touching base!!! One more thing- I love the verse you added at the end- “Strong and powerful is he who obediently carries out His word.” Joel 2:11 (AMP). Tomorrow I am teaching at Women’s Bible Study and this word hit home. Thank you.
Anne, Your April 18 message nailed it. Great job.