Multiple times, when we told people about our upcoming trip plans, they would begin their exclamations of, “Oh, how exciting!” only to be punctuated with “…so do you speak French?”
But I felt confident that my superior knack for gesticulating would bridge any language gap, and that our adventure in Paris would be smoother than crème de la crème.
Lost in Translation (Or Lack Thereof)
Between almost starving due to an embarrassing inability to order food in any cafe, taking the wrong metro at least once a day, and receiving an impromptu cemetery tour in Versailles, I learned that foreign languages, are, well, foreign.
However, the moments where we were sure that all hope was lost and that we’d be riding the metro for the next three days in search of our stop, some lovely human would approach us, unsolicited, and offer to help.
This happened quite a lot; every time we found ourselves in the midst of a miniature crisis of sorts, someone would stop to save the day. I’m relatively certain that Heavenly Father had guardian angels tailing us at all times, making sure we didn’t slip into a pits of despair when we felt positively stumped.
Finding the Light of Christ
While we eventually got the hang of things, getting out of Paris for a little day trip was a breath of fresh air—literally. After taking the train to Versailles, we meandered down the quaint, smog-free streets, wandering in and out of cobble-stoned neighborhoods with window shutters and whimsically tangled gardens.
Eventually, we emerged from the small streets and clustered houses to a long road leading towards the Palace of Versailles. Trees lined either side of the large walkway, and it almost felt as if we were walking through a sunlit tunnel of green.
Before the king’s palace, however, we caught a glimpse of our actual destination through the illuminated leaves of the trees. With excitement, the pace of our leisurely stroll quickened; our speed-walking was enough to put any errand-running mother to shame.
Upon our arrival, I was positively awestruck; I was standing in front of the Paris temple. I felt a wave of peace and calm encompass me like a blanket of warm-fuzzy-goodness. Not just because we made it to our English-speaking tour on time, or that we didn’t get lost; not because we (miraculously) caught the right train.
The relief I felt was the Spirit, welcoming me to the Lord’s House.
Transcending Language Barriers
For me, temples have always offered a respite from the world. When everything in life has seemed impossibly messy, the temple has always brought order and clarity. Unsurprisingly, that feeling of peace and comfort was unchanged at a temple on the other side of the world.
When we walked around the grounds and through the visitor’s center after our tour, I witnessed the gratitude and love and excitement of the people of France. They clustered around displays, exchanged warm embraces, and conversed with the missionaries. Outside the temple, it was much the same.
As children scampered about, exploring the gardens and peering into fountains, it reminded me of just how magnificent everything truly was. Sometimes we forget just how awe-inspiring temples are; it’s as if we get a little too used to the splendor that surrounds us. Children, on the other hand, are there to remind us of the bliss that accompanies the gospel.
The gospel truly is a happy thing, and it’s universal. In contrast to the language barrier we had experienced throughout our trip, visiting the Paris temple reminded me that the Spirit, or the light of Christ, is a universal language for the children of God.
It’s because perfect strangers listened to the Spirit that we survived the Paris metro, or finally found the restaurant we had been continuously circling the block for. And while these are little things, they meant the world to us. Often, it is through the kindness of others that we are reminded of Heavenly Father’s love for us.
Through the Spirit, He speaks to each of us individually, no matter our race, ethnicity, geographical location, or cultural background. When you get down to the brass tacks of it all, the reality is simple: we’re all children of God. We all want to be happy. And we all want to return to our Heavenly Father someday.