We’ve recently returned from a week’s holiday in Somerset. It’s somewhere we’d never been before, so we had fun exploring new (to us) places: Wells, Bath and Burnham-on-Sea. Top on my list of things to do was a visit to Cheddar Gorge. Maybe it was the dramatic limestone scenery that attracted me, as the towering grey cliffs and craggy outcrops of rock were reminiscent of Malham and Gordale Scar in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
We started with the bus tour (did you know that Tolkien took his inspiration for Helm’s Deep from the gorge?) and followed that up with a visit to the caves and a walk along the cliff tops. This last venture involved climbing up 274 wooden steps to the top of the gorge, and then back down again at the end. Fortunately, Cheddar also boasts a plentiful supply of tea shops.
The main cave (Gough’s Cave) is stunning: creamy-white stalactites and stalagmites, perfectly clear mirror-pools and huge calcite formations that look as though a Narnian winter has penetrated deep underground. All this lay hidden for aeons until it was discovered just over 100 years ago by Richard Gough, who spent eight years (eight years!) digging through the rock-fall that blocked the cave entrance.
The time he took, however, dwindles to microscopic insignificance next to the time it took for the caves to form. A stalactite grows by about one and a half a millimetres each year. Decade by decade, millennium by millennium, the tiny deposits left behind by the water flowing through the cave system grew and developed into the spectacular formations that can be seen today.
It made me think about my relationship with God. Paul assures us that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), but often the process feels painstakingly slow. I need to remember to see things from God’s perspective: I may not notice each tiny, incremental change, but together they are – in God’s timing – producing something beautiful for him.