October 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 3

Always And Forever

By Janice Alonso

A photo of a building with a tower, green grass and trees located at Merton CollegeI am lonely, but not alone. I am at Merton College, the oldest of the thirty-nine colleges making up Oxford University, where I am taking a three-week class. This is a new experience for me, not the traveling or taking the class, but being separated from my husband, family, and friends for such a long period of time.

I'm sitting at the stone table where legend has it C. S. Lewis sat with R. R. Tolkein one afternoon and shared a hit of port. Somewhere in their conversation the idea for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sprouted in Lewis's fertile mind, and from that seed blossomed The Chronicles of Narina. My port is a "take-away" latte from a nearby coffee house, and I have no earthly companion, but I feel the presence of God so intimately that all He lacks is human form.

This table is tucked inside a nook which is part of a decaying wall that during Medieval times encircled the city of Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom. Normally when I spend my quiet times with God, my thoughts travel forward, accompanied with prayers and requests for that future: please use me according to your plan today: provide me with inspiration when I write: bless my husband and children and keep them safe; or, let me have a renewed spirit to move forward in a forgiving and giving way.

Today my images are old: they make me dwell on who and what has come before me... how could they not in these surroundings?

My senses are filled with reminders of yesteryears. When I inhale, my lungs fill with air laced by a dank, earthy smell. The rain that has been with me since [arrived has settled into standing puddles. Mold clings to the stone table; mildew spreads across the wooden bench where I sit. The facades of the thirteenth century buildings across from me are blackened from the assaults of time. The bells within the towers of aged cathedrals peal all around me, their sounds echoing across Merton Field arid beyond that down to the River Thames.

Though my joints ache as I sit in this dampness, I feel new to the world compared to all who have passed through in the eight hundred years before my visit. The stone stairs leading to this table are worn concave from the thousands of footsteps that have trodden up here to read, to enjoy camaraderie, or simply just to meditate as I have. But even this college isn't old when we journey backward through Biblical history pages that tell stories of the disciples spreading the message of the risen Savior, Christ's death on the cross, His birth in the lowly manger, Moses's trials in Egypt, arid the lives of Abraham and Sara until we arrive at the beginning, when God created heaven and earth.

Despite this physical evidence of oldness, the word that resounds in my mind is "complete." God has been here forever. I was taught this concept as a child and have believed it all my life, yet wrapping my arms round its meaning is overwhelming, forever.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega" says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8 NIV)