Recently God blessed me unexpectedly. It was one of His surprises that delight me in simple but wonderful ways. We were en route from Scotland to Surrey and stopped for a night on the way. The town we had chosen was Lincoln – a place I had not visited before. It was a golden evening and the cathedral glowed with warm light. We had a snug evening in our hotel rooms – and it was only the next morning as I spent time with the Lord, and as I glanced up to look at my surroundings that the connection happened. Perhaps, as you read this, it will not seem as splendid as it did for me. But as a writer, I was deeply moved by the moment and received the gift of God’s blessing with wonder and joy.
I am sitting on a small chair in a garret, writing by the light streaming through the tiny window in the roof. It is a comfortable room, well furnished with a fine shower and central heating, electric light and a kettle for hot tea or coffee.
Yet my mind goes back to previous years. The building is two hundred years old At one time, looking at the beams in my room and the external shape of the building, it may have been a church in this city of churches. But the sign on the door says it is a theological college.
A cold breeze blows through the window which I have opened because the heating is too warm for my taste. But previous occupants would not have had such luxuries as central heating. I glance around, mentally stripping away the trappings of the 21st century and stepping back in time. The people who had lived here before would have had candle light; perhaps a wooden chair and desk, if they were fortunate; a bed with a straw mattress and maybe – maybe – a rug of plaited rags on the floor.
The main light would have come through the window. Today there is bright cloud, with the promise of sunshine. On other days, in this northern clime, there would be brooding skies and lashing rain. The room would be very dark. Candles were expensive. The occupant on such a day would have struggled to see what he was doing.
What has this room experienced? Who has lived here, studied here, written here?
In the winter there would have been snow on the rooftops of the town below. I can see little of the view as the ancient beech tree is in full leaf and blocks my view. But in winter even if the tree was high enough to be seen from my window all those years ago, previous inhabitants could have seen the town from here through its bare branches. I suspect, on such a day, the cold north wind would have seeped through ill-fitting window frames, forcing the tenant to huddle up in a blanket or coat – if he possessed such things.
My heart goes out to those who have gone before. What words of hope or despair, praise or longing were written here? Who were these men, blowing on cold hands as they clutched their pens and dipped them in bottles of ink to record the thoughts You gave them, Lord? What were those thoughts? I may never know. Yet today as I, in turn, write here it is enough to know that others have gone before me in this garret and have also praised their Lord with written words in other times.
And so the writing continues …