Weekly Reflection (NEW!)
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Please read Psalm 31 in your Bibles.
It was a cold cloudy day in Chesapeake, Virginia. As I left for another day of first grade, my mother called out, "Donít forget to wear your mittens!" I shoved my hands into my mittens and scooted out the door to wait for the bus. The day at school was uneventful until recess. "Hats and gloves need to be worn outside!" the teacher called out as the class excitedly headed to the playground. I was standing in line for the big slide when the guy behind me said, "Only babies wear mittens!" I just looked at him. "Only babies wear mittens! You must be a baby because youíre wearing mittens." I turned away from him, but he continued to taunt me in a sing-song voice, "Baby, baby, baby, baby! Youíre wearing mittens. You must be a baby!" I felt the sting of tears in my eyes, and I walked away from the slide still hearing his taunting echoing in my ears.
When I got off of the bus that afternoon, I ran inside the house and told my mother the whole humiliating story. It just poured out of me like spilled glass of milk. When I was empty, I ran to my room crying. My mother came into my room and just held me. She cradled me in her lap and rocked me. Her lap and her encircling arms became a sacred space. She was my refuge. I had been in distress. I was the scorn of my neighbors. I was spent and broken. But she was my refuge. She held me, loved me and assured me that I would be okay. She told me she loved me. She told that I was important. She gave me the comfort I needed to go back into the school the next day and kick the crap out of that kid. (No, just kidding. I couldnít resist.) She was my refuge for time, so I could continue to be what I was, a student.
There was another time when I was a child, and I needed refuge. There werenít many days in southeastern Virginia when it snowed enough to close the schools, but we had a few. The best thing about being a kid after a good snow is that it seems so deep when youíre only four feet tall to begin with. There was a morning when we awoke to such a good snow. The schools were closed. My brother and I wolfed down our breakfast that morning, got suited up, and rushed outside. The sky was gray, and the snow was still blowing. It was cold Ė very cold. We tromped through the snow to one of our usual play spots. We had a snowball fight. We built snowmen. We made snow angels. Then we were cold Ė very cold.
My brother discovered a bramble bush that had gotten so large we could both get underneath into an open space. The light was dimmed but still bright as the sun shone through the dense bush and cover of snow. It was silent in that space and soon it was warmed by our presence. The snow had not fallen into that space and in that space my brother and I found a refuge from the cold. Our toes and fingers began to thaw out and our cheeks no longer felt cold and stiff when we smiled or laughed. We stayed there for a few moments in that sacred space until we felt warm again and could return to our play.
The psalmist writes that it is in God where refuge may be sought and it is in Godís righteousness that we are delivered. God is our strong fortress that saves us. It is our faithful God that redeems us. Refuge from what? Our growing panic and anxiety. Delivered from what? The ever growing sense of being out of control. Saved from what? Our fear. Redeemed from what? Our sinful self who wishes to try be our own god. It is Godís arms that encircle us as God says, "Hush, child. I am with you always. You are my beloved child." It is God who shelters us as God says, "Warm yourself from the cold and cruelty of this world. Feel the fire of my Spirit. You need not be afraid. I will not let the cold devour you."
Then God sends us out back into the world to share that delivering love, that strengthening refuge, and that saving presence. God is indeed our refuge and our hiding place, but not forever. God would not have us to cower in fear. God would not have us be paralyzed by panic. God sends us out to love and to be strength and refuge to our neighbor in need.
Pray that God will be your refuge and strength in times of need and distress. Indeed, claim that promise of God. Then pray that God will give you the faith to be what God has been for you to your neighbor in need.