‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’

Dear friends,
Last month we told you about our visit to Lindisfarne, which was once the
home of the great Celtic saint Cuthbert. The Farne Islands are places of silence
and solitude (except for the presence of thousands of shrieking sea birds),
and there are wonderful stories of Cuthbert’s life there, not least that otters
would come and dry his wet feet with their fur! He was a man who craved
time alone with God, though his retreat was frequently interrupted by the
needs of others who would sail over to see him to benefit from his ministry.

Since our return, Pauline has been reconnecting with another medieval mind
by reading a novel based on the life of Dame Julian of Norwich, who was the
subject of one of her essays when we were at Spurgeon’s College. We know
very little about this remarkable woman who, in May 1373, at about the age
of 30, contracted a near fatal illness, during which she experienced visions of
Christ on the cross. These changed the course of her life and gave her an
understanding of God’s own longings for his people which she later wrote
about in her book Revelations of Divine Love. She described herself as ‘a
woman, ignorant, weak and frail’, ‘a simple, uneducated creature’, but when
she became a solitary ‘anchorite’ – living permanently in one small room built
into the wall of the Church of St Julian, just outside Norwich – she became
not only a great spiritual writer, but also gave spiritual direction through the
window of her ‘anchorhold’ or retreat. God’s presence reassured her that ‘all
shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’, and
her insights have been blessing and challenging her readers ever since.
It strikes us that these great figures of their time, living surrounded by the sea
or behind brick walls, living apparently unproductive lives, were completely
unlike the sort of influencers we hear about today. They would probably have
been horrified by the notion of social media, and yet without any desire to
promote themselves, their influence is still felt centuries later. What an
encouragement to all of us who feel that our days of action are over – it seems
that simply being in the presence of God enlarges us and makes us fruitful,
able to share his love with all those who come our way, and to be blessed in

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline