Why should we always want a light? He chose darkness for us, darkness of the womb and of the stable, darkness in the garden, darkness on the cross and in the grave. The Dean's WatchLast week I told you about one of my favourite Christian novelists: Elizabeth Goudge, an Anglo-Catholic English writer popular during the middle part of the last century. Her father was a minister and her mother an invalid, and she grew up in the cathedral towns of Wells and Ely, to some extent cut off from the outside world - which explains the idyllic setting of many of her boooks. Her novels are mostly little known now, except for her children's book The Little White Horse.
Why do I like Elizabeth Goudge? Her books draw me into another world. They are imbued with a sense of God and the wonder of his creation, salvation and providence. They spur me on to self-denying love, courage in suffering, faithfulness in relationships, discipline in obedience, and joy in God's world. Her writing can be sentimental and theologically tenuous, but it's also lyrical and full of spiritual insight. I finish her novels with quotes and ideas I want to reflect on further - like this one - and with that little *sigh* of regret that comes at the end of a good book.
Her books aren't easy to find,* but if you do manage to track them down, here are my favourites. The Dean's Watch, which you might be able to get hold of as part of the City of Bells trilogy, is probably the closest to "classic" among her books; the cathedral dean at the heart of the book is discussed in Leland Ryken's Pastors in the Classics. I also love The Rosemary Tree, The Castle on the Hill, and the Eliot trilogy: Bird in the Tree, The Heart of the Family and Pilgrim's Inn. There are a few you might not want to bother with, like The Middle Window. If you're into novels on a more epic scale, try Green Dolphin Country.
Here's a taste of Elizabeth Goudge: three quotes from The Dean's Watch about a man who claims not to believe in God, but who can't quite deny the reflections of God's glory in the world and people around him.
He was a convinced but hardworked rationalist, always hard at it re-convincing himself of his convictions. During his bad times this was not difficult, but during his good times the bright shards on the floor of the world had a trick of turning into shining pools that reflected something.
He was abruptly conscious of something that suddenly lit up his darkness as though a shutter had swung back, then closed again, leaving a picture illumined small and bright against the darkness of his mind. Tall silver towers lifted up against the cloudless blue sky above, old houses with crooked roofs and gables gathered about the market place that was filled to the brim with a dazzle of golden sunshine. In the gold a running child with yellow hair, glinting and gay, and an old man as gay as she was, forgetful of himself. Chimes rang out far up in the blue sky. Half-past-twelve. Other bells answered as though ringing in another world. ...The small bright picture faded from Isaac's mind but he had it somewhere. ... And others, equally imperishable, small and precious as little pictures painted within a great gold letter in an illuminated manuscript. Sometimes he would fancy that strung together they would have been a sort of speech telling him something.
That sky was enough to make a man imagine anything, it was in itself so unbelievable.
That's pages 112 then 19, 166-7 and 304 in my water-marked and dog-eared copy of The Dean's Watch.
* Try abebooks, an excellent online source for second hand books.