What Paris Taught Me About God

by Debbie Brown

Growing up, I loved everything French. I took two years of French in high school, loved French food, and there was so much for an artist to see in France. However, I had never actually been to France. So when the opportunity came to visit Paris last fall, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

Of course, when one is in Paris, one must see the Eiffel Tower. So late that first evening, we walked briskly through the city streets, hoping we would get there before it got too dark. The buildings in Paris are tall and close together; you can’t see the Eiffel Tower until you are a few blocks away. Finally, we rounded a corner and came out into the park that surrounds it, and I got my first look.

Even though I had never been to Paris before, I already knew what the Eiffel Tower looked like. So do you, I’m sure. It’s on t-shirts, coffee mugs, jewelry -- I even have dinner plates with its image on them. But when I first saw it in person, I caught my breath.

The sun had just set, and there was a faint glow in the sky. The amber colored lights on the tower had been turned on, and the special twinkling-white-light display had already begun. Somehow I had managed to get my first glimpse of this icon in its full glory.

All I could say was, “It’s so beautiful. It’s so beautiful!”

It sparkled and glowed against the dark blue sky, and the rest of the city that surrounded it was quieted by the falling shadows of dusk.

The beauty of it soon gave way to its incredible enormity as we walked closer. Up until now, I had only ever experienced the Eiffel Tower at about 12 inches tall. Now it literally towered over me, and its wide stance spread out over several city streets. It was so tall, and I was so very small next to it. Still beautiful, there was a power to it now that I had never experienced before.

Once I was back home, I reflected over my trip and realized something: Experience is greater than knowledge.

We all know what the Eiffel Tower looks like, but to experience it is an understanding that goes beyond knowledge.

“For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].” 1 Corinthians 13:12, AMP

We were made to experience God, not just know about Him. Before sin came, Adam and Eve got to walk with God through the garden in the cool of the evening. And Jesus came in the flesh so that we might experience God: “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John‬ ‭14:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬) God wants an intimate relationship with us, which requires experience. You can’t have a relationship with someone you only know about.

So how can we experience God? God is always calling to us, but if we want to really experience Him, we must turn away from all the distractions and look for Him (just as I went to the Eiffel Tower). Books have been written about experiencing God, but here are just a few of my suggestions:

Slow down. Be still and quiet.

Pray. And then listen. Have a two-way conversation with Him.

Look at creation: its beauty, power, precision, detail, uniqueness, and extravagance. What is the Creator saying through His creation?

Observe the gifts and talents that are in you and those around you. When we do things well, we are living out our God-given gifts and doing what we were created to do.

Love and be loved. God is love, and He enables us to love. You can experience His love in others, and by watching others be unselfish and kind.

Look for His gifts. “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17 NIV)

When you see evidence of Him and His goodness, worship Him. Praise and worship is a beautiful way to experience God.

And remember, these are only tastes. One day we will get to experience Him, face to face, as it was meant to be. And it will be beautiful!


PS. One of my favorite podcasts just started a series, New Ways to Experience God, so if you've had God-experiences, but want more, check it out here.