Thursday, January 9, 2014

Refuge {One Word 2014}

The word began nipping at my heels December 5, 2013; I think it blew in with a cold front. The meteorologists said an ice storm was coming, a severe one. I had to be out that afternoon to look after the family dogs at my parents' place and go to a long rheumatology appointment, the first time at this new doctor without a companion for the wait. It seemed likely the sleet would begin before I drove home, and I've never driven in ice before. Before leaving, I belatedly turned the page on the calendar in my study and discovered this perfect image: two Victorian girls sharing an umbrella in a winter storm.  The accompanying text by Nancy Leigh DeMoss read, "God doesn't promise that we will never face danger, but He does promise to shelter those who trust Him--'under His wings.'" The Scripture heading the page was one I'd memorized in 2009 or 2010:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me. for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by (Psalm 57:1).

 "Refuge," I thought as I sent the image to my sisters (one of whom expected to commute an hour and a half after dark in the imminent weather). "Refuge is what I need today. Lord, You are my refuge, not someone else to drive me and hold my hand. You can keep me and the car and my family safe in the freezing rain ahead. Please protect us from harm, but even if You don't, thank You that we are sheltered under Your wings even in the scary things."

The sleet did come, arriving as I sat in the doctor's waiting room. By the end of the long appointment, ice covered the windshield, the door handles were frozen shut, and the light had begun to fade. "Refuge," I thought as I prepared to drive home. "You're on, Lord. I'm counting on You to get me home safely." Amore gave me a pep talk while I sat in the car waiting for the defroster to clear the windshield, and Handel's Messiah in the CD player reminded me I wasn't alone after all. In fact, the final notes of "Hallelujah" sounded as I pulled safely into my own garage.

Later in the month, adjusting to a new medicine and a bad cold, concerned for family members in trials, anxious about the different sort of family Christmas this year, I turned again and again, almost daily, to Psalm 31:1-4, 19:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
There it is again: refuge; refuge; refuge; refuge. Such a consoling, heartening word. Refuge doesn't deny the storms and battles of life, but it promises security in the midst of them. In fact, the English definition includes both the storms and the safety. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary delineates it this way:

Full Definition of REFUGE

:  shelter or protection from danger or distress
:  a place that provides shelter or protection
:  something to which one has recourse in difficulty

When the blogging community began inviting readers to choose their "one word" for 2014, I felt mine had already chosen me. "Refuge" is my word for the year.

I would really prefer that the storms stop altogether for a while, but that's not my choice, is it? It is my choice how to respond to them. This word reminds me that my Lord who redeemed me will not lose interest in me midlife. This word reminds me that He alone is my shelter, protection, and recourse. When I'm embattled, storm-tossed, or just a little blue, He is my safe place. Comfort food is no true refuge. Shopping for more books when I have not read all I own is no true refuge. Even phoning a friend or texting a family member, if I have not run to my Rock of Refuge first, is no true refuge.

No, I can't control many of the circumstances which will come my way in 2014, but I can seek grace to respond in a God-honoring way, running to hide myself in the name of the Lord (Prov. 18:10). I pray that the Lord will grow my trust and experience of His strength and protection as I do.

Already, the first 8 days of the year have provided opportunities to practice this. One of my dearest dear ones experienced alarming post-op complications. Refuge! The water heater failed late on Friday afternoon before the coldest weekend of the season. Refuge! Mere hours later, a square of drywall fell off the garage ceiling. Refuge! Ebony came in from the garden with two wounded paws. Refuge!

The dear one is fine now; the plumber fixed the water heater Saturday morning; no one and nothing were hurt by the drywall; the vet tells us Ebony's paws will heal without intervention. In the moment, though, each situation brought a temptation to respond in panic, in scurrying about for help and hope. I did feel some anxiety, to be sure, but by God's grace this little word's presence in my life (and my sister's timely reminder of it) invited me to a different path, on my knees with my Bible propped open to Psalm 31, praying it out loud.

Right now Ebony is teaching me more of this word. He will be fine, but he's uncomfortable enough that he periodically goes off to hide. Monday night he hid in his crate and in the bathroom. Yesterday he hid himself in the corner between my desk and my computer, in my study closet, and in his "nesting" bed in a different room. I watch him and know how that feels, that urge to hide myself under the covers or in a corner and wait for the storm to pass, to hide from pain that only follows you into your hiding place. I rub his head or his tummy and tell him it's going to be ok. I try to entice him to my side for comfort. I recognize myself in him and want to choose a better, surer refuge than a tangle of cords and the base of a lamp between two pieces of furniture, a better refuge even than a soft fleecy bed. I want to take refuge in God, in the shadow of His wings, until the storms of destruction--all the storms this life brings--pass by.

Have you found a word for your 2014? If so, I'd love to hear it. In any case, I pray this year we would fall in love with Jesus all over again (or maybe for someone here, for the very first time?) and trust Him with all.

Sharing today with Bonnie and Laura:

P.S. In case you're interested, a number of Beth Moore's eBooks are free through Friday, January 10, 2014.

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