|Laurence Voorhies Mouton|
A trip to France, for me at least, means returning to my roots.
My mother’s side of the family passed down a significant chunk of French genes through her father, a red-blooded American, but a Frenchman to the bone. I grew up hearing stories of my petite French great-grandmother, Laurence Voorhies Mouton. Her tiny waist (and the uncomfortable apparatus required to keep it that way) thankfully have not been preserved as family tradition.
You can be sure that the whole time I’m in France, she, my grandfather, and those French family roots will be on my mind.
But the biggest return for me is to my theological roots.
As a writer, I am always more eager to talk about my latest books than the first one I wrote. I expect other writers will relate. It feels like moving backwards when I’m asked to do a retreat that focuses on When Life and Beliefs Collide, which came out back in 2001. But that’s the topic the women want to hear about in France.
Strangely enough, at the moment a return to When Life and Beliefs Collide is probably what I need most, because that’s what’s happening to me.
When more of life is coming unraveled than holding together, when trouble seems to gain the upper hand and things get broken that can’t be fixed, I need reminding that God is still good, that he is still on his throne, and that his purposes cannot be derailed by all the stuff and mess and suffering that comes with life in a fallen world.
I’m remembering Jesus’ unbending defense of her when she opted to sit at his feet—to be the Rabbi’s disciple—to study and learn from him instead of helping prepare his dinner. I’m revisiting that wrenching scene between Jesus and Mary when he arrives too late to save her critically ill brother from dying. It’s tough to go there when I’m making my own prayerful 911 calls for my father, among other things. I’m remembering how God used all the study and learning, the disappointment and tears to equip Mary to be the ezer who stood with Jesus by anointing him for his burial when others were turning their backs.
I don’t believe there’s a formula to this. God’s ways are mysterious and unpredictable, and trusting him is hard. I won’t be leaving formulas behind in France.
What I will leave behind is the call that is lifelong—to commit ourselves to knowing him better so that faith has more to grasp when the lights go out and we are feeling our way through the dark.
Returning to my theological roots means I will read aloud to the women in France (and to myself) the sobering and wise words of Dr. J. I. Packer,
“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”