I went on retreat the weekend before last to Lindisfarne. The weather was glorious – bright and sunny. There was however, a freezing cold wind! I have been thinking a lot lately about God being a shelter. Psalm 31 begins, “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness…be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” What was interesting as I stood looking out to sea with the full-force of the wind blowing in my face was that it didn’t take much for me to move slightly so that a building or wall took the worst of the buffeting I was experiencing. It was amazing how warm and comfortable I could be with the sun on my face when sheltered from the wind.
This got me wondering how I can find shelter in the midst of the problems and stresses of everyday life. God seemed to be saying that it is not necessary to run and hide completely but just to adjust my position slightly to get some respite for a while before once again embracing the tumult! I was thinking about what comprises shelter for me. The week before I had spent a couple of days with some friends I have known for 20 years. I felt so comfortable to be with them. They have been an important part of my life for so long and were so loving and affirming of me that it definitely felt like a time and a place to shelter.
I think being in community is a place where I find refuge and the strength and courage to go again. This weekend I was at a conference in Sheffield for those who seek to share Jesus with people interested in new age and pagan spirituality. It was really encouraging to honestly speak about the joys and hurts such ministry brings with those who share my passion for bringing God’s love to spiritual seekers. And I find shelter in my relationship with God. As the psalmist says, it is the ultimate place of safety because there we find unconditional love and acceptance while being truly known without fear or shame.
The Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Course (http://pioneer.cms-uk.org/) has also become a place of shelter for me and as I reflected further, I began to think of Lindisfarne itself as a picture of what CMS is creating for those of us who are trying to imaginatively engage with culture so as to reveal God’s goodness in new, relevant and captivating ways. It is a place of community for pioneers to be taught, resourced, encouraged, have their wounds dressed and be envisioned afresh for mission. From here we are sent back to the mainland along the pilgrim’s way to live, love, serve and be agents of transformation.
However, while we need places of shelter, the temptation is we may become so comfortable that we set up home there. There was also a picture of this on Holy Island – upturned boats on the seashore that had become permanent and fixed places of storage. The danger is having been saved, healed and set free to be sent out to bring this to others and make disciples, we forget our purpose and settle down to sit out life in safety just waiting for Jesus to rescue us. Perhaps this is what has happened to sections of the church in the UK.
Agencies such as CMS bring a prophetic challenge that calls us back to lives of radical discipleship where, yes, we feel vulnerable and subject to the elements but also experience the excitement of adventure, the joy of creativity and the surprise of finding sources of love and beauty where you didn’t believe they were possible. So by all means take time to shelter but whatever you do don’t stay there!