During the earliest years of my memory, our family of five kids and both parents lived in an old one-and-a-half story brick house on a two-hundred-and-fifty-acre dairy and row crop farm in western Kentucky. By “old” I mean at least a hundred years old. With the first floor elevated about four feet above ground level and ten-foot-high ceilings on the first floor, it was as tall as a two-story house. Four large rooms and an extra wide hallway with stairs formed the first floor.
Fireplaces in three of those rooms provided an illusion of heat which became quite convincing when you stood close to the fire. Farther away, not so much. Adding to the challenge of that illusion were large drafty windows and a complete lack of insulation. Brick-and-plaster does a better job of slowing down musket shot than it does the cold.
That cold was especially acute in the two upstairs bedrooms. Our sources of warmth were the open stairwell and the floor grates in each room that allowed a bit of heat to seep up from beneath. On the coldest winter mornings, we’d find ice had formed on the inside of the windows. On the coldest nights, my older brother Paul and I would leave our socks on as we slept in flannel pajamas or long johns.
We learned early on the stark difference between the pleasure of standing close to a stack of blazing ash and the incidental drift coming up through that old open grate in the floor. Even though that slight heat felt better than the cold, it just didn’t compare.
In later years, we learned, too, the intense difference in both light and warmth that came from deliberately drawing near to God. When we rely only upon the casual coincidence of close moments, we deprive ourselves of the strength and joy that flourish in deliberate closeness with our Maker.
It is decidedly more desirable to pull up a chair near to the hearth than to resent the chill of a drafty room.