SARAH SMITH (The Great Divorce – 2)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [Micah 6:8 (ESV)]

Growing up, one of my favorite hymns was, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” Its author, Lesbia Scott, wrote hymns for her children as expressions of the family’s faith. Not originally intended for publication, she wrote this song to emphasize that saints lived not just in the distant past but also in the present day. My favorite verse was the final one and I recall singing it loudly with childlike enthusiasm: “The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, In church, by the sea, in the house next door; They are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too.”

It’s been years since singing that song but its words came to mind while reading C.S. Lewis’ fantasy The Great Divorce. After the dreaming narrator, presumed to be Lewis, takes his bus ride from hell to heaven, he meets his guide—the author George MacDonald. Although MacDonald was dead before Lewis read any of his books, his writing had a direct impact on Lewis’ faith and work. Lewis believed there was “hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continuously close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself.” MacDonald’s writing was instrumental in causing the atheist Lewis to eventually become one of Christianity’s greatest apologists.

While conversing with his heavenly guide, the narrator sees a woman of “unbearable beauty” surrounded by a dazzling procession of angels, children, animals, and musicians. Although he’s sure she must be someone of great importance, perhaps even Jesus’ mother, MacDonald explains, “Fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” Identifying her as “Sarah Smith of Golders Green,” he says she was “one of the great ones.”

Since MacDonald was a real person whose books I read as a girl, I thought Sarah Smith might have existed and immediately put down my book to Google her. Sarah Smith, however, was but a figment of the writer’s imagination—an ordinary person who loved children, was kind to people, and cared for animals. Nevertheless, explains MacDonald, like a stone dropped into a pool, Sarah had a ripple effect of love and joy on the lives of those she encountered and the “abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father” flowed over into the lives of all she met. As a result, children loved their parents more and men even loved their wives more. After knowing her and being loved by her, people were renewed, restored, and transformed in a meaningful and beautiful way. In short, ordinary Sarah Smith of Golders Green touched the lives of others as only a Christ follower can. She was, indeed, a saint of God.

Like the fictional Sarah Smith, the real Sarah (and Sam) Smiths of today humbly and lovingly shine the light of Christ on all whose lives they touch. Completely ordinary men and women, they are the kind of people about whom I sang as a child—and the kind of people Jesus call us to be. As followers of Christ, we are called to be the Sarah and Sam Smiths of our troubled world. May we all be saints of God.

We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine. [D.L. Moody]

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)]

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