Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Hiding Place

When I was nine or ten years old, there was a particularly fierce storm system blowing through our area. Tornadoes were a real possibility and after some discussion about the sturdiness of the trailer we lived in, my parents packed up the three of us kids and drove us all down the road to our church.

I remember feeling terrified as we left our home – I had just read Night of the Twisters (not the most comforting book for a skittish kid) and the storm seemed like it was out to get us. It was a relief to get to the safety of the church – I felt better as soon as my dad unlocked the doors and ushered all of us inside the bright foyer.

While my parents and some of my aunts and uncles were in the sanctuary, playing instruments and singing, I sat in the space beneath my Papa’s desk. My dad propped a mattress up against the open side of the desk, creating a little dark cave. I felt safe with my flashlight and a Sweet Valley High book…and ended up sleeping through the rest of the storm.

Nights like these happened fairly often while I was growing up -- when my dad pastored a church on the coast, he’d open up the building for any members who needed a place to stay whenever tropical storms or hurricanes came through. With the wind roaring outside, we’d gather in the fellowship hall and play board games, watch weather reports on a tiny static-filled black and white tv, and talk over the sound of the pouring rain. Even after the electricity went off and we were stifling hot, it felt better to be there in the four walls of the church.

These days, when bad weather arrives, I walk around my house, looking out of the windows every other second and listening to the local news. I don’t get to run to the church or anywhere else. I have to hold my ground and tell my kids that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

But, lately, I am afraid.

While I drink my coffee and feed Kailey her mixed fruit and rice cereal, I turn on the news. I watch for a few minutes, which is long enough to put a lump of dread in my stomach, and change the channel to one of my TiVo’d episodes of The West Wing.

It isn’t just the economy – there are the random shootings, the always-evolving crisis of the Middle East, the shaky health-care system. And we all have our personal worries – car accidents, deaths in our families, illnesses, debt, the safety of our kids.
With all of that in mind, who doesn’t feel like running away to some safe haven? The question is: is there a refuge? Where, in this world of unrest, can we find security?

Looking back, it wasn’t those church buildings that made me feel so safe. It was the time I had spent there, peaceful in the presence of God. It was the word of God, proclaimed from the pulpit, affirming God’s power and sovereignty. It was there, in that church, that I was certain of God’s close proximity. It was there that I was reminded again and again of His love and protection, of the way He always brings good to those who trust Him. When I was hiding beneath my grandfather’s desk, I was really hiding in the shadow of the Almighty, secure under His wings.

Fear is corrosive; it eats away at us, bit by bit, day by day. And fear is sneaking in through the news, through the movies we watch, through the forwards in our in-boxes. It invades our minds and highlights worries…and when it’s there, we get so confused and anxious that we forget to seek shelter. We forget that there is a place of peace in the middle of the chaos…we forget that we do have a place to run. We forget that our trust is in a loving Father. He wants to take the anxiety and the fear from our hearts…He wants us to know that the downward spin life seems to be taking does not shake Him. He is still in control. He is still our refuge.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”……..”Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91: 1-2, 14-16

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