"...a place of safety..."
"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble." (Psalm 9:9)
Some of you are saying right about now, "Hey, I've seen this picture before!" That's because you're looking at a part of the harbor in Rockport, Massachusetts with a red fishing shack in the middle known as, "Motif #1." The Rockport natives advertise it to be the most photographed building in America. (This is actually a reproduction. The original was blown away by the blizzard of 1978.) I served as the pastor of the Rockport United Methodist Church from 1984-89 while I was doing my doctoral work in pastoral counseling at Boston University. Captain Ted and his family were part of the church. Captain Ted owned a large boat that he used for tourist sight-seeing trips, whale watches, and charter fishing trips. I remember him telling stories about the frustration of tourists when they would visit the dock and find the ship tied up with a sign indicating there were no trips that day. The tourists were frustrated because the water in the harbor looked perfectly calm. They'd often demand, "Why aren't you sailing?" Captain Ted would then instruct the landlubbers on how the harbor water might seem calm enough but the waves out at sea were running at three to five feet, enough to make the strongest of them run for the rails and bellow the blues of seasickness!
Safety is often one of those things like trust, we take it for granted until we lose it. Safety is one of our most important needs. If a child develops without a sense of safety she or he will most likely be charged and scarred by tremendous anxiety. Then, life can seem like a chaotic nightmare. The same can be said for adults if they lose a sense of safety - physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. We cannot control what's outside the entrance to the harbor. We are subjected to stresses and crises that sometimes seemingly come from nowhere like rogue waves in the dark of the night. None of us is immune to the poundings we sometimes face outside the harbor. In order to withstand and endure all that we must encounter in our day-to-day journeys, we need that safe harbor as well.
The safe harbor might be the warm embrace of a trusted partner or friend. As children it's the loving, nurturing embrace of adults who love us that helps make it okay to leave the safety of that "harbor" and voyage to new destinations. It's also the knowledge that we can return to that "harbor" or take the memories of that "harbor" with us to find new "safe harbors" that also makes it possible to journey forth. Spiritually we need to know that God provides our ultimate safety. We need to experience the presence of God's loving embrace in order to know that whatever storms may come, we can never be torn from God's loving grasp. God's gift of divine love in Christ offers us the assurance of an eternal safe harbor. The awareness of that ultimate safety, the living into that ultimate safety, helps us physically, emotionally, and spiritually survive the storms of today. God's love is not just an assurance of a heavenly safe harbor, it is the experience of a present source of relief as well.
Frankly, I'm concerned that we are being lured into more troubled waters by the promises of so many life-eating temptations and spending far too little time in the safe harbor of spiritual replenishment. Too much time being battered about by the pounding waves of life without spending time in the safe harbor of spiritual replenishment can lead to increased anxiety, chaos, and disintegration. I pray that God will continue to lead me to into safe harbors of spiritual replenishment with worship, fellowship, study, outreach, witness, and prayer. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.