Geoffrey of Coldingham, 12th Century wrote:
“Farne [ an island off the coast of England, called by St Cuthbert his ‘lonely battlefield’ ] which was formerly the fortress of devils, is now a cloister and a school of saints … It always contains, indeed it actually forms, men of virtue, because when someone is led by the Spirit into the desert he must expect to be tempted by the devil. Consequently he either cultivates sanctity or else he leaves this holy place. And the strength of temptation is greatly increased by the island’s poverty and the cold caused by the sea…There is a continual assault from the waves and ceaseless conflict with them. Sometimes the island is completely covered with foam, which flows in from the sea and is blown over it by the wind and this is great mortification to those who live there, and it makes them cold and afraid.’
This time in my life feels like a little like that; a continual assault from the waves and ceaseless conflict. I’ve often been cold and afraid.
But I wonder did the monks ever see the foam as the sun caught it and a rainbow of refracted light danced in the midst of it all?
Were there days when the beauty of the sunset on the sea made them forget the cold ?
Did they ask to leave, or were they so aware of the deeper changes happening within that they were willing to continue with the hardship ?
Sometimes I see light in the foam as it blows off the top of the waves onto my island.
I see a rainbow in the compassionate heart of my youngest, who wouldn’t be so empathetic, so caring, if our world of sickness was not his reality. When his compassion shows it’s so beautiful I almost catch my breath.
I see the light when my husband offers to drive to collect our child from school one hour after I’ve taken her there; when without any words being said, he knows that it hurts my heart to take the phone calls from her school saying, ‘She’s not well. She needs you to come.’
I see rainbows when I see him putting my needs above his own and loving me well.
I see bright light when I see the depth of character of the people around me that I would otherwise have been oblivious to.
I see dazzling brightness when God gives me deep satisfaction from the ordinary things , and reassures me that I am seen and known and loved deeply.
I’ve not been asking to leave this place but I want to see more light. I’m not sure about cultivating sanctity but I do know that I am changed and changing. That I have learned to see beauty and grace in the ordinary, the banal, the small. That I am learning to value internal above external. That I see depths to myself that I didn’t know were there.
Sometimes, like the monks of old, I’m cold and afraid too, but those are the moments I will choose to celebrate as I look for the light.
All the photos on my blog are my own, and the photos in this post were taken around the Farne Islands and the English coast