My middlenameis "Nigel" (which means `Black'). Why? Becausethat was my father's stage-name; and because I was born with a pitch-black thatch of hair. That later turned light brown in colour. In other respects too, my prenatal dedication as above by my mother — was answered. Ultimately, I did indeed end up in the service of the Lord — and, by His inscrutable grace, ended up becoming the spiritual `father' of my own parents!
One month after my birth, I was baptized in the local Roman Catholic Church — in the name oftheTriuneGod. Myearliest memorieswhenIwasatoddlerandasmallchild,arethose of worshipping with my mother in the Roman Catholic Church every Sunday.
Came the day that I went walking with my mother into a hardware shop. All kinds of ironware goods were there being offered for sale — including huge heavy iron fireplaces which should have been (but were not) secured to the floor.
My mother said: "Nigel, you can look; but don't touch!" Disobeying her, I climbed up onto one of the iron fireplaces. It fell on me– fracturing my skull, injuring my liver, and nearly paralyzing my legs.
My father tells the rest of the story. He visited me in hospital, where the doctor told him that I, his only child, was not likely to live. Though then an Atheist, Dad admits he then prayed (and I am now crying with wonder as I type this): "Oh God, if there is a God — save my son!"
Next day,thedoctortold him: "Mr.Lee,wethink yoursonmaylive;but ifhedoes, hemay never walk again." Years later, I became a caver and a wrestler and a long-distance runner. And now, in my seventy-first year, I still walk miles every day!
– 8 –
On the third day, the doctor told my Dad: "Mr. Lee, we now think your son shall live, and may probably also walk; but he may yet become mentally retarded." With the latter, my enemies today concur!
I had indeed three days earlier been thought to be dying. But grandly, on the third day my great Saviour rose from the dead! And, in one sense, so too did I.
Yearslater,whenateenagerandavery poorstudent,myDad oncetoldme allIwouldever achieve in life would be to become a latrine attendant in public toilets. By the grace of God — I did not. Instead, I’ve had to settle for becoming a perhaps less useful Professor of Theology.
Decades after my huge accident when a small child, my Dad — when converted from Atheism — told me that two things finally won him for Christ. What were those things?
The first was that prayer of his, for me, in hospital — when I was a child. The second was the very great change in my own life — when I myself came to Christ when aged twenty-one. Oh Lord my God; how great, how great Thou art!
Now right after the outbreak of the Second World War, our family moved to St. Helens, where my father joined the Royal Navy. That town was then fiercely attacked by German bombers. At St. Helens Convent School, when six, I can remember extinguishing a German incendiary bomb which fell on the playground. Too, the little girl next door to our home died during a German bombing raid — while our family was protected in a makeshift home air raid shelter under our staircase. Thus the God of grace took one child; but spared the other (me).
Her death made a lasting impression on me. Soon after that, my parents sent me away from St. Helens first to Bare Lane near Morecambe — and then to Kendal. Subsequently, my father was sent on ahead of us to South Africa by the Royal Navy — as its Chief Radar Officer (South Atlantic). For the next year, my mother drove a War Ambulance in England — while I was being raised in greater safety first by her father and sister, and later by my father’s mother.