Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”–Psalm 16
Recently, we have been struggling with sleep issues with our four-year-old son. He has reached the stage in life where shadows in his room become scary monsters. Our usual bedtime ritual has been hijacked by a series of delay tactics. A few weeks ago, as I was about to turn out the light, he said, “Mom, wait. My body is telling me I need to sleep somewhere else.”
Smart kid. We talk a lot at our house about how to listen and care for our bodies. His words were his last attempt to get my attention and tell me how scared he was about going to sleep. As much as I wanted to scoop him up and take him to sleep in the safety of his parents’ bed, I knew my husband and I both had additional work to do and it would be hours before we turned in for the night. I did what I thought best, I scooped him back into bed, crawled in beside him and began to remind him that his dad and I were there to protect him but most of all, God was watching out for him.
As I read the words of the Psalm 16, I am certain this prayer for protection was uttered as a result of having not been protected, feeling unsafe, or maybe even scared. Whether we are four or forty-five years old, we all have experienced those feelings. If we are really honest, our bodies often tell us that we aren’t safe. And yet, there is no doubt that God will protect us just as God protected the psalmist. Refuge from the ills of life is found by trusting in God.
A few years ago, I was in Boston, Massachusetts, and one afternoon while I was out exploring the city, I stumbled into Old South Church, which was near our hotel. The beautiful music of the pipe organ bellowed into the street. Church nerd that I am, I grabbed a couple of the printed sermons available on a front table, and I nestled myself into a pew to listen and read. My body was weary from travel and sightseeing. The lovely music and shared sermons were a well-timed respite. After a while, I realized I was not the only person who had found a place of rest. A homeless woman had stretched out and made herself a bed in the sanctuary. The rhythm of her snores sounded loudly in the silence between the organist’s selections. Her body had found protection and refuge in the house of God.
We all need safe places where we can go to rest and receive refuge. When we pray the prayer that the psalmist teaches us, we find God’s reassurance of presence and protection in sometimes the most surprising places. Whether it is while sitting on a sanctuary pew, receiving a hug from a loving parent, or a feeling a sense of deep peace, may God’s presence provide the refuge and comfort you need today.
LeAnn Gunter Johns is a 2004 graduate of McAfee School of Theology. She has served churches in Georgia and California and now lives in Macon, Georgia with her husband, Barry and their two boys, Parker and Patrick. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the Stanford Cardinal and Mercer Bears, running, and drinking coffee!