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It’s actually hard to see London when you’re smack dab in the middle of it.
We’d toured the city of London for several days, walking miles with heads tilted back in a perpetual state of looking straight up, taking in the breath-taking sites as we stood like ants on the ground.
But by chance on Thursday we walked across the Westminster bridge and found ourselves on the Southbank of the Thames river. It was a beautiful sight, with the evening sun setting, and we took our time looking out over the river as the crowd carried us along
But then we glanced back and saw the real sight.
From across the river, you can look back over and really see the city, see what what the buildings look like, and how they look in relation to each other. St. Paul’s and Westminster and the Parliament buildings (above) all look amazing when you can actually stand back far enough to see them. When walking in the city, you’re far too close to take them all in. Isn’t that true with anything? You have to stand back far enough to see.
And the larger something is, the farther back you have to stand.
So in order to see a continent, a culture, perhaps sometimes we need to stand back really far, like all the way across an ocean. Perhaps?
As many of you know, before we went on this trip I struggled a bit with why we were going. We’re not international speakers, and surely there are Bible teachers aplenty in the UK to teach a conference. I was excited to visit the missionaries, but why should we get to go?
In every way, the trip was, quite simply, a gift to us.
And the greatest gift was the gift of a fresh perspective.
I’ve traveled abroad before. From 2000-2005 I visited a different foreign country every year. But we haven’t crossed the border since 2005 and that makes six years of slowly forgetting how uncommon life in America really is.
I actually started to think that we were normal. Silly me.
Many of you know this: The way we live is not normal.
It’s so easy to think that a 2300 sf. house with a two or three car garage and a bedroom for each child and a master suite with a bathroom and two cars is normal. And perhaps in America it is. But globally, that is not normal. That is extravagant. And we can quote statistics that tell us we are the richest 1% in the world, but it’s really hard to feel it until we travel abroad. We stand back far enough to see and realize – we live in a dreamland.
And as we walked our way around the UK, catching trains, subways, buses, and planes, swimming in a sea of 60 million people, I feel so small and maybe, just maybe, begin to have the teensiest tiniest taste of God’s overflowing heart for His world.
For His people.
As I type this I’m on an airplane 38,000 feet above Greenland. I’m looking at a little TV screen that maps our flight, and I can see the entire western hemisphere “below” me on the screen, while the little white airplane slowly moves across the above. Because it’s a spectacularly cloudless day, I can actually look right out my window and see the very continents that appear on my screen. See cities turn to mountains turn to coastland turn to glaciers. See vastness that blows my mind, and I can’t help but lean my head against this window and just let the tears spill quietly over because this is the world Christ died for. And my smallness is beautiful but it makes it so hard to see. And I get lost in my small world and begin to think that the pettiness and triviality of so much of my daily concerns actually matter.
While people are dying without the gospel. Millions of them. Swarming through subways and flooding into airports and brushing my shoulders on the street.
But so often I’m drowning in my own sea of triviality.
And I wonder if that is really the whole point of the sacred mundane. To elevate us from triviality into reality.
And maybe even though we can’t always travel abroad maybe living the sacred mundane would teach us to transform every moment into an opportunity to bow low and breathe deep and pray long and see clear. Maybe it would elevate our perspective so our cares would be small and His world would be big.
At least that’s my prayer.
[Thanks for letting me process … I'm a work in progress, as always. Thanks for reading.]