As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
A reading from the Psalms
Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”
The Lord Most High is your fortress. Run to him for safety, and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home. God will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones. You will overpower the strongest lions and the most deadly snakes. The Lord says, “If you love me and truly know who I am, I will rescue you and keep you safe. When you are in trouble, call out to me. I will answer and be there to protect and honor you. You will live a long life and see my saving power.”
— Psalm 91:1, 2, 9-16 (CEV)
Anyone who knows my son, Caleb, knows of his great affection for dragons (both fire-breathing actual dragons and dinosaurs). He loves them, and has for a couple of years now.
The other day in our worship time with our team here in Central Asia, we were tasked to draw out what we felt God was saying about the city or nation in which we are living. I watched as Caleb very meticulously selected pencils and highlighters and markers and worked on his drawing. After some time, we shared what each of our drawings represented. Here is Caleb's drawing, and below is the explanation.
Caleb explained that the various colored lines in the outer edges of the picture were dragons. In the center of the picture inside of the “walls” were the people in this city who followed Jesus. The walls were protecting them from the dragons.
As I listened to him explain this picture, and then as various of our team members prayed about the imagery, I kept coming back to today's passage. He who dwells in the fortress that is our God will be protected from the strongest lions and deadliest snakes.
All manner of evil exists in the world. In this part of the world, the danger of following Jesus is extremely real. All sorts of risks are taken by individuals and families who say, “I will follow İsa (Jesus).” Risks that could range from being ostracized from family or community to death.
And here, in the pen of a four-year old boy, we are reminded that in the midst of the dragons there is a place of refuge. There is a place where the righteous can run and be safe.
It is important, however, that we view safety through a different lens. It isn't enough to assume that safety means there will never be a “successful” attack of the enemy. Safety is not God airlifting us out of the places of danger. Rather safety is knowing that as we walk through those places of danger, He is walking with us. He has parachuted into the midst of it and is walking with us through the heat of the battle. It is in this journey with that we find ourselves in the refuge of.
In this Lenten journey, we find ourselves like the believers in Caleb's drawing. We are surrounded by the dragons on every side, yet we rest in the midst. Our table set before us in the presence of our enemies. And, here in this time, we find our Lord not airlifting us out of it, but rather walking along with us through the heat of it.
As we continue on our journey between the manager and the cross, let us not forget those who truly are in the heat of it. Please, stop and pray–even now–for those who are risking family, friends, jobs, and life itself for the beauty of following the Messiah. Pray, not that they would be airlifted out, but rather that God would parachute in and walk with them through the fire. And that in their walking they will be ever bringing their friends and family closer to Messiah, and would be transforming their communities into refuges from the dragons.