Life in the White Tower
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
The Tower of London has a tower, called the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror. On the 2nd floor of the White Tower is a small Norman chapel, called the Chapel of Saint John. It is bare and simple, built entirely of stone with 12 stone pillars and a vaulted ceiling. Cool silvery light enters the room from the arched windows.
Knights used to keep all-night vigils in this chapel before appearing before the king and being commissioned. It is very silent, very still, and quite ancient—almost 1,000 years old. You cannot enter it without being struck by feelings of purity and peace and sacredness. It is the sort of place that upon entering, you would instinctively lower your voice. It is a place of reverence.
But that is not all there is in the White Tower. There is another place, called the Little Ease, a torture dungeon, measuring only 4’ x 4’ x 4’, used by Bloody Mary, the Queen of England who persecuted believers in Jesus. Because of its size, a prisoner couldn’t stand nor lie down, but was forced to remain in a crouched position for days before being brought out for examination and manacles, the rack, or some other form of torture.
It was dark, uncomfortable and confined. In fact, that’s where it got its name; the dungeon of “Little Ease.” This windowless cell has a heavy oak door that shuts out all ventilation, all light. The prisoner would experience increasing agony until freed from the suffocating blackness.
There is almost no room to move,
no air to breathe, no light to see.
Frederick Buechner used this illustration of the White Tower to illustrate the battle between truth and the lies we believe. Between having an identity firmly rooted in Jesus and an identity built on anything else, such as our achievements, performance, looks, or even the reaction to our latest Instagram post.
As I read Buechner’s illustration, I realized something. I’ve lived in both places, the Chapel of Saint John and the Little Ease. I’ve experienced remarkable freedom in Christ, but also the suffocating blackness of lies I’ve believed.
Most, if not all of us, have, within ourselves, a Little Ease. It is some belief about God, about ourselves, or about our lives, that keeps us confined. Our Little Ease was created stone by stone by the failures of our lives, by the arrows of our upbringing, by the accusations we’ve believed. It is a place of condemnation, of self-criticism, even of lowly, dark thoughts of God.
And it is no place for a follower of Jesus.
Everyday, life in the White Tower can be spent in either place, the Chapel of Saint John, or in the Little Ease, depending on what we believe to be true, what we let sink deep inside.
What liberating, soul-restoring truth will you embrace today, in light of the cross of Christ?