We seem to have turned a corner in our London experience. Getting a washing machine in the house was a huge thing--I've never seen Julie so happy doing laundry. I managed to get mobile phones for the both of us at the local Vodafone shop (I'm happy to plug them since they were so cooperative). I got a Blackberry and Julie a lavender Moto RAZR with a camera and MP3 player built-in (they know how to do cell phones over here). Ian is loving school--he greeted me in French when I came home tonight--and has played volleyball, soccer and gone swimming already with his class. Julie went out to lunch with someone in our church, from the same family that housed us when we came for the interview in June, and made her way across town using several trains and a bus or two. All of these things make London feel a lot more like home.
I'm missing my pals from church, the cigar nights, watching more than 4 channels (I'm jonesing for Law & Order), and my family. All of that is normal, I know, but I feel it today, partnered with how good some of the other things feel. We've got a long way to go, but learning to live somewhere--and minister somewhere--is what we're here to do and learn. God has led us on this adventure and we want to soak it up as much as we can. But it wouldn't be a bad thing, really, if some of our friends and family would just decide to move here and be our neighbors...
I watched a movie on the BBC the other night that I thought was really good. It was called 'Anita and Me' (2002), and like a lot of movies here it was about the clash of cultures in the UK. The story was about two young girls, one Indian-British who tells the story, and the other a white English girl. They're close friends when they're little, but as the English girl absorbs racist attitudes toward her friend they drift apart. The cool thing about the story is that the Indian girl never lets go of how they loved each other as children, and when she goes off to prep school she gives her friend a diary of all the things she would have shared if they had still been friends. It's funny, sad and true all at the same time, and shows how loving someone is more about the one doing the loving than it is about the receiver of that love.
You can probably see this coming... The movie reminded me of how God loves us, and how we should love each other. God loves us because that's who he is, and in turn we are called to love one another not for what they do, but for who they are. And so it follows that we love each other not for what it gives to us in the exchange, but rather because we have been loved by God first. The people we love become, then, worthy just because of who they are, not for anything they do. That girl in the movie suffered all kinds of things at the hands of her friend, but she loved her in spite of it all, because she valued her apart from any of her behavior. How different would the world be with just a little bit of that kind of love?
The answer to that question is found in the Cross.
The Gospel is a strange thing sometimes, but every once in a while a part of it is so crystal clear, so simple that it takes me by surprise. God loved us so much that it didn't matter what we did. He came, he saw, he loved, he died and rose again. It's not that people didn't matter in that equation, it's just that people didn't control that equation. He did it because that's who he is. I want to learn to love people the way that girl did in the film, and also how Jesus did during his ministry here. It's a lofty goal, I know, and probably impossible. But it's the trying that matters, not the accomplishing, and we all need to remember that. I got my reminder watching a movie.