The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Have you ever experienced the holiness of place? For two years I served as a pastor of a 900-year-old Scottish kirk. It was the church in which Robert Lewis Stevenson spent much of his childhood and where his grandfather Lewis Balfour was the minister. I experienced this church as a holy place. Something about its history and architecture engendered a heightened sense of nearness of the Spirit.
While in Great Britain, my wife, Jan, and I visited the Tower of London. Part prison, part fortress, it oozes fascinating history. The oldest part of this auspicious structure is the White Tower built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Housed on the second floor of the Tower is a small chapel named the Chapel of Saint John. It is built entirely of stone with a vaulted ceiling supported by 12 pillars. It was used by the Knights of the Order of Bath to keep an all-night vigil over their armor before the King anointed them on coronation day. Except for the light that shines through the arched windows, the chapel is empty. It is very silent, very still. To me, this is a Sabbath place. The reverent prayers from over a thousand years of visitors to this holy place can almost be inhaled as the sacredness of the place fills one’s soul. Just below the Chapel of Saint John is the most appalling of all the Tower’s dungeons. Measuring four feet square by four feet high, it is impossible to stand upright or lie down full length in it. This stifling, cramped place is called Little Ease.
We are that White Tower. How much of our lives do we spend in the place of Little Ease when the Chapel of Saint John is so close and inviting? Howard Rice’s description of the spiritual life reminds me of the Knights in the Chapel of Saint John: “To be spiritual is to take seriously our consciousness of God’s presence and to live in such a way that the presence of God is central to all that we do.”
And yet, there is a part of me finds the Divine Light too much to bear. So I continue to find refuge in my ordinary (and beautiful) humanity, though I know the breath there is constricting, even though it sometimes feels like I am sitting in the ashes. This is grief. Yet in the grief there is some healing happening. Little by little, bit by bit, those parts of me that remain in Little Ease are being bathed in Love that comes from a Source like Saint John's Chapel, a holding place where the light of Love bathe all who linger there.
I return again and again to the liminal space of worthiness and vulnerability, of love and acceptance as I venture, one heart beat at a time, from Little Ease to the Chapel of Light.
Two Rooms (A Threshold Poem)
Two rooms make up this plane
a preference as you’ll see
One open to God’s shining face
The other only room for me
There is much light in the one above
Its windows wide and free
The one below but dampens love
Yet here I sit to a tolerable degree
One’s like the future grand with awe
the other sure and certain
One contained in canon law
the other’s light shines through torn curtain
Why there’s two I cannot know
But still a greater question
Is why I linger here below
in days of linear progression
One mystery is there is no door
to keep me in this room below
my heart whispers I have a choice
to live the truth I surely know
I’ve come of late to the light filled space
and found my truer self there
Yet I strain against Love’s embrace
its penetration too much to bear
So soon I find my home again
in the place of Little Ease
but the memory of Light’s domain
blows through like morn’s fresh breeze
So while I long for Saint John’s Chapel
I stay with roots below
Some part convinced forbidden apple
has yet more sweetness to bestow
You may think my life impaired
by living here below
yet many rooms my Dad's prepared
It's what Jesus came to show
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Notes for the Way
This is a space for Journey Guides to post "field notes" and observations along the path.