Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Don't take things for Janet
Let me just preface this entry by explaining the title. My lovely friend told me a charming little story about her thinking the common phrase "take things for granted" was actually "take things for Janet" which happened to be the name of her older sister. It sounds like a cute juvenile story until you find out that she misunderstood this term until late into her teen years. Why I chose this as my title shall (hopefully) be clear to you at the end of this blog.
We visited Oxford today and thought it would be absolutely charming to go punting down this river and ogle the "fit gents on the football pitch". So we paid our deposit and got ready for a romantic getaway with four girls. Little did I know that balancing on the back of a very long boat with an even longer and heavier pole would not be the best plan. The happy and confident me above is pictured just after our very experienced guide pushed us off into the unknown and let me man the boat myself.
This lovely picture of me was taken only seconds after my happy pole got stuck in three feet of mud and in my attempts to pull it out, I wound up deeper in the mud than the pole. Amid frantic moans (I wasn't even coherent enough to think of obscenities) I made it to the river bank. Even closer to the "fit gents on the football pitch". Luckily the wind was blowing at roughly the speed of sound and the 60 degree weather went from crisp to frigid almost immediately. Luckily, I had friends there to help me laugh while I was pulling pond scum out of my hair, but it wasn't too long before we not-so-gracefully gave up. I braved the water again and we tied the boat up to a dock nearby and just headed back to the boat rental place on foot. After unceremoniously climbing three or more fences we got ourselves completely trapped on an island with no way across except to climb this bridge (that was not high enough for this to be a stunt equal of Jason Bourne, but high enough to rack up European medical costs should we have been unsuccessful). My friend Brooke and I got up pretty easily (despite the fact that the crotch on my soggy pants was about to my knees) but another one of our friends does not sit well with heights and she found herself halfway up (and halfway down), luckily for us (and the crowd we had gathered) she was coherent enough to spit out a few obscenities which only made the situation better. Then as she was hugging the side of the bridge with my hand firmly in her armpit and Brooke's leg under her elbow, this man that looked something like a Greek god mixed with a Calvin Klein model came and told us that there was a foot-bridge nearby.
Having crossed the bridge we made it down to the boat-rental and received quizzical (an understatement) looks from the men who were expecting us to come in from the river on their boat. We told them (in very animated terms) what happened and where the boat was and they were kind enough to jog down there and get it and not charge us an extra pence. Too kind.
We then had just enough time to hit up a souvenir store and buy me some matching Oxford sweats and big-T shirt (I looked like an Oxford crazed women's basketball player) before we had to be at Christ's Church for Evensong.
As soon as we got to Christ's Church we were regaling our friends with our epic story and didn't notice that half of our quite large company had already entered the courtyard to the Church. We hurried around the corner and walked into this beautiful sight:
Naturally we knew we had to bust out the camera and capture this priceless moment. What we didn't know was that this was strictly against the rules. We didn't know it until this very large man was yelling at us to get out. At first he didn't even tell us why to get out, just that we had to. Then when we found out that it was because we weren't supposed to have taken pictures we immediately explained that we had no idea, we were profusely sorry and we would delete the pictures. He told us that he had told our group (which we weren't with at the time) and we deliberately disobeyed him, and he didn't want us to delete our pictures because he wanted us to show everyone at home what cost us our ticket to see Evensong at Oxford. Power trip? We tried every trick in the book for him to let us back in (i.e. pointing out that there were no signs forbidding photography, we were out of earshot when he told our group, even our professor came back and tried to reason with him), all of which he either ignored or came back with his favorite phrase "that's your problem". When I had reached the point of exasperation, I finally tried to tell him that we were from a Christian college and just really wanted to attend evensong and I believe my exact words were "worship the Lord" (I was going for sympathy. OK, guilt). He then told us that Christians don't break rules, but after a little more pressure, he cracked and let us through. While running across the courtyard to catch the doors to the service before they closed I was thinking thoughts that definitely weren't worthy of worshiping the Lord. Although we got seats that made me feel like Rosa Parks, it didn't take long for me to calm down. In fact, as soon as they started singing the Lord's prayer I couldn't help but get teary eyed. Then when my friend whispered at how amazed she was that you could feel the spirit so strong in a place that is so different from our church, I couldn't hold back any longer. I started bawling. Not the single graceful tear down the cheek. The real deal. We're talking huge mascara-running tears, runny nose and catching breath. Normally this isn't my emotional expression of choice, but I just received such a strong testimony that the people who made all these sacrifices to build that church and many, many others did it for the same reason we make sacrifices for Jesus today. Although they didn't know about Joseph Smith or baptisms for the dead, they knew that there is an eternal God who loves them. I've always known that God is an eternal God but I've never felt it before now.
So I'm sitting in a pile of liquid emotions and I can't help but reflect upon the day. Although I could easily have interpreted it as a pretty crappy day what with me having to walk through upscale Oxford as a muddy mess, dropping 25 pounds (roughly $400 dollars with the current exchange rate) on a very touristy getup, almost crying because of a mean man with a vengeance, definitely crying an obscene amount in a chapel filled with stoic Brits... but this day couldn't have been more opposite. I found that I have made absolutely fabulous friends here who can make even the worst situation a hilarious adventure (or at worst a charming anecdote), nobody will ever doubt whether I have been to Oxford with all the merchandise I loaded up on, and I had a very necessary spiritual awakening. It's vital to appreciate things for what they are and not what you would have them be, and I'm no longer going to "take things for Janet".