“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory[a] will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” Isaiah 4:5-6 (NIV)
The other morning, I took my daughter out into our backyard after pleas of “House? Please, house?” I had a plan, too. I was going to plant my chair underneath our mulberry tree and, from there, I would have a good view of her whether she was playing in her playhouse or climbing up the ladder to go down her slide. While I sat in this shady refuge, I was going to continue reading and journaling and had plans to write a short devotional on the refuge of peaceful spaces. It was going to be a lovely time outside.
Unfortunately, the insects had other ideas. It has been hot and muggy and raining off and on the past few days, and the dew was still on the grass when we went out so the bugs were out in force. My backyard, which is usually a beautifully cool refuge in the morning hours, had turned into a torture zone for me. I am notorious for being bitten by insects. So much so that there are times that I just about flat-out refuse to leave the house. If there are bugs about, I will get bitten, buzzed, and, really, just all-out bugged.
How like life, isn’t it? We sit down and determine that this will be our sacred time, our time with God, when we absorb His Word and listen for that still, sweet voice. This will be our time to center ourselves in the midst of everything, to find silence and calm and peace. And then the thoughts creep in. Or, rather, they pop in, buzzing about our mind while we are trying to be still. Grocery lists, dinner ingredients, errands that need to be run, appointments needing to be kept. They buzz and bite at our concentration, threatening to draw our minds away from God, away from quiet.
Sometimes these thoughts are like annoying insects, interrupting us. Other times, it can be our emotions that interrupt, suddenly washing over us like a sudden storm. I can personally attest to this. Thoughts lead to emotions and those emotions lead to more thoughts and, before I know it, I am lost in the storm. I have no idea what I was thinking or praying about in the first place, or even what I was reading or journaling. Something that I tend to forget, however, is that, even in that deluge, God can still be my refuge. Our refuge. We can still call out to Him, call out His name, and He will meet us in that place. That place of trying and failing, that place of frustration or overwhelm. He will meet us there.
As it says in our key verse, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” The “it” refers to the presence of God. It is there to cut through it all and draw us back. Back to a place of quiet, a place of reflection, a place where we meet God, where He can speak to us, and where we can hear Him with our whole heart.
So, while my backyard might not have been the shelter and refuge I had hoped for of a morning, it served as a great reminder of the God Who is, no matter what.