The Dreaming Spires
I’ve been living in Oxford for over two months now—the land of ‘dreaming spires’ and ‘last enchantments’ … it really is like living in a fairy tale.
But the last few weeks have been jam packed with learning, learning, learning. I just finished my 4th week of “full term”. In four weeks I attended 18 lectures, read 9 novels and countless amounts of literary criticism, and wrote 6 papers. It was a busy month. But I’ve been getting to learn and read and write about wonderful, wonderful things.
One of the first books that I read while I was here was C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. For those Lewis fans out there who have not read it, go to your local library right now (or download it onto the technological device of your choice…and I will try not to judge you). And if you have never read anything by C.S. Lewis, shame be upon you and your entire household. Okay, okay…I am only joking. But this guy really is pretty amazing. I can’t believe that I get to study his literature in the place where he spent so much of his life!
Here is a little excerpt from Surprised by Joy for your reading pleasure:
My first taste of Oxford was comical enough. I had made no arrangements about quarters and, having no more luggage than I could carry in my hand, I sallied out of the railway station on foot to find either a lodging-house or a cheap hotel; all agog for ‘dreaming spires’ and ‘last enchantments’. My first disappointment at what I saw could be dealt with. Towns always show their worst face to the railway. But as I walked on and on I became more bewildered. Could this succession of mean shops really be Oxford? But I still went on, always expecting the next turn to reveal the beauties, and reflecting that it was a much larger town than I had been led to suppose. Only when it became obvious that there was very little town left ahead of me, that I was in fact getting to open country, did I turn around and look. There, behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life.
I don’t necessarily feel like I have been walking in the wrong direction for my whole life. But at certain points, I have found myself settling for the sprawling suburbs without even realizing it:
When I was preparing to come to Oxford, when I stepped off the train and started the mile walk to my lodgings (with much more luggage than Clive), I was not thinking at all about the people that I would meet here. I came here with my focus on many things; people wasn't one of them. Fortunately, God had something better for me than just the suburbs I was heading for. He had relationship for me--relationships that I would learn from, or that I would teach in, relationships that frustrate, relationships that lift up, relationships that challenge my thinking, relationships that inspire me to laugh and to dance.
|Cat haikus to bring us smiles during a hard study session.|
I figured I would make a couple friends in Oxford, but I was not at all prepared for the abundance of family that God has provided for me here. The last few weeks have been so precious to me, not just because I am developing a deeper appreciation for the amazing city of dreaming spires that surrounds me, but because I am developing a deeper appreciation for the amazing people that surround me. There is depth and complexity in each of these beautiful people that I get to share my life with. God has blessed me so much more than I had ever imagined. I get to study things that I love in one of the most beautiful places in the world with some of the most beautiful people I have ever met! He had a deeper, more enchanting plan for me that was not at all what I expected when I first got off that train two months ago. I was indeed surprised by the amount of joy and love that has found me here.
|some of my lovely friends during our Sunday "family time"|