The Unknown Sarah Smith

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Image Description: Candles from Compline. Three lit candles are on top of a table. Two of the candles are blue, and the other is white. There is also a blue and white plate and small, flat, ceramic piece with a painting of a yellow and orange flower.

“Who brings out the best you?”

My friend and colleague asked that question last night when we were gathered with students at Compline. “Who has shaped you deeply — not necessarily in ways that made you like them — but in ways that made you more like you?”

We each had the occasion to reflect on that and share if we wish. I have some people in my life for whom my answer is immediate and obvious. They have given me this kind of gift in abundance, and I was grateful for the occasion to share about them.

So I bring those questions to you today also:

Who brings out the best in you? Who has shaped you deeply — not necessarily in ways that made you more like them — but in ways that made you more like you?

In the midst of our conversation, my friend and colleague also lifted up a passage from C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce. I’ve never read that book before, so this was unknown to me. While receiving a glimpse of heaven with a guide, a man sees a person he’s never encountered before.

“Is it? … is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golden Green.”

“She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

“And who are these gigantic people… look! They’re like emeralds… who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?”

“Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her.”

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son — even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to the back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”

“And how… but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat — two cats — dozens of cats. And all those dogs… why I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.”

“They are her beasts.”

“Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”

“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”

I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

“Yes,” he said. “It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, and it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all of the dead things of the universe into life.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)

The Unknown Sarah Smith.

Who brings out the best in you? Who has shaped you deeply — not necessarily in ways that made you more like them — but in ways that made you more like you?

Renee Roederer

 

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