See Paris First

istock_000002390324xsmallAs a follow up to my Ash Wednesday sermon about overcoming our fear of death by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus (“volunteering to die” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would put it), let me offer this wonderful poem by M. Truman Cooper, first shared with me by my dear friend Judy Skeen.  It’s called “See Paris First,” and it’s about knowing what it is you fear and facing up to it–approaching it squarely and head on–so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life being afraid.  The poem itself is simple and spare.  It may take more than one reading to appreciate it, but I assure you…it’s worth it.

Suppose what you fear
could be trapped
and held in Paris.

Then you would have the courage
to go everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn’t dare
to put your toes smack dab
on the city limit line.

And you’re not really willing to stand on a mountainside
miles away
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
And just to be on the safe side, you decide to stay completely
out of France.

But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”

—M. Truman Cooper

4 thoughts on “See Paris First

  1. I just read the wonderful poem on your blog, See Paris First, this AM, and, what a coincidence to then read the devotional in the Upper Room. It follows:
    Because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.
    -Galatians 4:6 (NRSV)
    My younger brother, Alan, had Down syndrome and died four months short of his 50th birthday. He was terrified of thunderstorms. Our mom taught Alan that when a storm approached, he should put his hand over his heart and say, “God’s right here.” After Mom died, Alan stayed overnight with my family once a week. When a storm was near, Alan would come to us and say, “God’s right here.” Then he would calm down. Later, when the storm passed, he would come to us and say, “Alan’s all right.”
    What a wonderful picture of faith Alan gave us! When the storms of life threaten, we can follow Alan’s example and remember that “God’s right here” – right here in our heart, every single day of our lives. And if we believe that as strongly as Alan did, we, too, will be able to say, “I’m all right,” even in fearsome times.

  2. Fear convert joy and happinness into sorrow therefore satisfaction and blessedness cannot flow. Let every one examine themselves and dare to opened the interiors of his mind and spirit.

  3. to what an ode to fear we all could give,
    that great blocker that hits us,
    paralyzing us from the life to us, God gives.
    mans competition before returning to dust,
    often blinders are needed to live how we are to live,
    when all that is simply needed is faith and trust.

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