Ce que je puis.
July 2014. We were on a family trip to London with three littles who must be the greatest travelers ever, and the day came for us to introduce them to the majesty and splendor of Westminster Abbey. At almost 1,000 years old … yes, you read that right … it has been a mainstay of London history (not to mention tourism) from its inception in 1090A.D. and somehow manages to tie the past to the present around every corner, on every wall, in every nook and niche.
We toured the inside of the cathedral along with approximately 4,875,392 of our dearest friends from approximately 173 nations, but I don’t remember seeing any of them because I was too busy wishing I could take pictures with my eyes of all we saw. Taking photographs inside is not allowed, but oh didn’t they understand that I needed – needed – to take pictures of every. single. thing. so that I wouldn’t forget any of the details and divinity?!
My eyes traveled up walls and down floors as I read the thousands of epitaphs hanging and laying throughout the Abbey.
And then I saw them. Four words. Four words that changed everything.
Ce que je puis.
It’s a simple French phrase that has simply undone me for the past 18 months. Pronounced ‘suh quh zhuh pwee,’ it means “what I can” or “what I am able.” I have no memory of whose epitaph it was and can only remember that the name above it didn’t register at all. And yet those four words on his (I think I remember it was a man’s?!) epitaph have permanently etched their way onto my heart and into my life and into my way of thinking. One day I’ll find a way to put them on a family shield as part of our family motto: Have courage | Be kind | Find the good | ce que je puis.
The words were so simple and yet so profound that I couldn’t quit staring.
Ce que je puis.
Yes. I want to live like that.
I want to live out the maxim that although I can’t do everything – after all, I am not God Almighty, a truth that becomes clearer by the day – I can do something … I. can. do. what. I. can. do.
I can choose not just to sit back and lament the state of the world or feel hamstrung by the depression known as the news. I can choose to walk into that world and be the light of Christ.
In a world where violence threatens not only our way of life but also our very existence on this earth, I can pray as if my life and my family’s lives depend on it – because in reality they do – and share Christ with the world by living out His command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE HAS LOVED US.
In a world where hatred and ugliness flare up between races, I can treat everyone based on the character he displays – and expect him to do the same back to me – and not based on the skin color with which he was born.
When I am tired and having the kind of parenting afternoon that makes me wish I could spontaneously transport myself to Anywhere Else in the Known Universe for a Foot Rub and a Fountain Coke, I can take a deep breath and remember that I am parenting a marathon, not a sprint, and this work is noble because it matters for the next generation … and the next … and the next.
I can walk toward the poverty and the hopelessness, not away from them, as a means of living a ‘ce que je puis’ life.
I can be a safe haven for a child who feels afraid of the world.
I can be a warrior and a lighthouse for the weary.
I can use what I have to feed the hungry, clothe the bare, soothe the raw, fill souls’ buckets.
Yes, I can share Christ. Not Christianity, you understand. Christ. In how I live and love and treat others and stand for right and protect and defend the weak and small and defenseless and honor the brave and love well the aged and the infirm as well as the perfectly physically healthy who are soul-weary from this world. I can speak truth into hearts that have been broken so that Christ can use those words to bind up the broken-hearted.
Ce que je puis.
What I can do is remember that what I say and do leave marks. They are my legacy. They matter, my words and my actions. They will be flawed and dinged up and sometimes even broken. I will use them for good, but sometimes I will fail and make things worse rather than better in spite of my best efforts. But I will not stop trying. Not so long as I have breath in me. Because what I can do is keep going, keep laying it all at my Savior’s feet and asking Him to unbreak the pieces of my efforts in His name and reshape them into something beautiful.
Because ce que je puis – what I can do – is limp and fight and crawl and claw my way to the One who can do it all – not for my sake or for my glory but entirely for His.