We’ve been having an amazing time in England!
We spent a few days in London, and then we’ve been in Oxford for two days now. I won’t share all my photos; there are too many. But here are just a few snapshots of what we’ve been seeing and doing!
Just a few iconic things around London–the obligatory selfie on Tower Bridge:
Keith and me on the Millennium Bridge, where Harry Potter was filmed:
And Katie, David and I outside Westminster Abbey.
On Saturday, Keith and I left the kids to explore the British Museum (we’ve done that on previous trips) while Keith and I took double decker buses all over London to track down the addresses I’d found on old census data of where my ancestors lived. We found this area in Camden Town, which would have been quite working class back in the 1800s. And I found the home where my great-grandfather lived before he came to Canada, and where my great-great-grandparents lived at the end of their lives! That was neat.
Here they were, around 1910, when it looks like they were just putting in the molding around the door (it appears it was under construction in the background):
In Oxford, we’ve been exploring C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien history. Here we are, with our friend Paul, who lives here and who has been showing us around, outside the Eagle and Child pub, where Lewis and Tolkien and a number of other writers, named “The Inklings”, met every Tuesday for drinks and a chat.
And here’s a door with a special place in my heart! The story goes that one wintry, snowy night, C.S. Lewis exited from the side door of University Church and saw in front of him this wooden door, with a lion carved into it and creatures above it.
He then turned to the right, and he saw this lamppost, lit up, with snow all over it.
And it became the most famous lamppost in the world, because when he combined these two elements, he started thinking about the start of a story, concerning a little girl named Lucy who was billeted him with him during the Blitz, when children had been evacuated from London, wandering through a wardrobe, into the snow, and finding a lamppost, and meeting a faun….and the rest I hope you know (and if you don’t, you should. It’s magical!)
And now just a small story.
Sometimes you see Jesus in the smallest ways.
We were on the Tube (the subway) and it was super busy. A number of raucous teenagers were further down the car, drinking beer and laughing and yelling. After a few stops Keith and I were able to sit down. An older woman, likely near 70, walked on the subway, appearing very weighed down and tired.
I was thinking Keith or I should get up and let her sit down, when suddenly a man sitting across from us, maybe 30, picked up his backpack, stood up, and smiled at her, saying, “would you like a seat?”
The fatigue on the woman’s face melted away in a big smile, and she sat down. The two of them then started sharing secret smiles whenever the teenagers down the car got particularly ridiculous, laughing together at it. And two stops later he got off the train. They were two people on a subway, one of whom was tired and older, and one who was young, and they made a brief connection of kindness.
It was just a momentary thing, but my big thought in seeing all that was, “That made Jesus happy.” Just a small thing, but I think Jesus was happy when that man sat down.
Now, here’s where more of my thoughts went.
I think so often we over-Christianize some things.
Too often I’m afraid I approach my interactions with people with mixed motives. I think, “I need to give this woman a seat because I need to treat her as I would treat Jesus,” or else “I need to do this for Jesus.” And it becomes a duty.
But when I make it about Jesus, I miss the point. Jesus doesn’t want us loving people because in loving people we love Him; He wants us just plain loving people. What’s the difference? Bear with me for a moment, but this is important.
When we try to treat others well because in so doing we make Jesus happy and we serve Jesus, then too often we don’t see the people. We see instead the work that we are doing. We think, “See, Jesus, look what I am doing for you!”
I don’t think Jesus wants that. I think Jesus just wants us seeing people.
In fact, we often assume that the good that people who don’t know Jesus do doesn’t count because it isn’t done for God. But Jesus wants people being kind towards each other, and treating others as we would want to be treated, and when we do that, whether or not we know Him, we do make Him happy.
I don’t know if that man was a Christian or not. But whether or not he was, in that brief moment he made God happy, because he looked up and he saw that woman and he cared.
When we look at other people, we need to see them as Jesus would, yes. But that doesn’t mean that we approach every thing we do as if it’s a duty for Jesus, because that can make us proud and work-based. It means we need to actually see the people. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I hope that we can just see and love people, because THAT’S what Jesus did. He noticed people, He didn’t just say, “See, Father, I know this person matters to you, so I will do this for you.” No, he just lived in the moment loving people. And that, I think is the point of it. When we do everything for the glory of God, it isn’t that we consider everything a work that we do for God; it’s that, as we love others, we bring glory to God. Does that make sense?
And, as the Holy Spirit is in us, He helps us just notice people as Jesus would. That’s what matters!
Whatever you’re doing today, then, look at the people around you, and appreciate them, just for who they are. Celebrate what is good in them, even if they don’t know Christ the way you may. It’s okay to see goodness, wherever it may be. And let’s spread love by truly seeing and appreciating people, because that is what Jesus did.
Does that make sense? And have you seen anything super cool this summer, either in a big moment or a tiny moment? Let’s talk in the comments!
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