This time of year invites rest and preparation for the year ahead. We’ve spent our week at the cabin with extended family. Temperatures yearning toward zero for the high, with lows plummeting to -30. Our home warm, thanks to my husband’s handiness, the days of frozen plumbing and improper septic drainage a thing of the past. Warm, cozy, inviting, safe. An exquisite blanket sewn of snow, the idyllic portrayed.
The word Refuge comes to mind, the cabin, the family, the raucous games played into the night, filling meals, warm cups of tea and coffee nestled in frozen fingers. This refuge, invites reflection and projection, designed exclusively for my soul to rest and become, thoughts moving toward the obvious – what 2016 is asking of me. Chomping at the bit to reign in the delicacies and beer pints, to tackle new purpose and projects, finances. The calendar’s turn to January 1 holding more power than I care to admit.
A mild case of cabin fever has descended upon the peaceful quiet, a low-grade itch asking for freedom from thermals, wool, snow boots, mittens. Today, I succumbed to the need for a run while braving the subzero temperatures. Desperation trumped safety and sanity, but whatever, it’s why I carry a phone.
Birdhouses dot the county road, my favored run route. Perched upon the rustic and substantial fence posts, the humble homes offer relief and comfort from the valley’s extreme elements. Filled with nesting materials, awaiting return of the delicate fowl, someone took admirable care in advocating for the least of these, providing refuge for the slightest of creation.
As a white, straight, American Christian, refuge comes easy for me and mine. I’m attractive, my body healthy, within society’s acceptable parameters. My mind is solid with but a few foibles here and there. Kids are decent and kind, husband generous, our families of good name and reputation. I believe law enforcement will protect us without bias. Most churches would welcome and allow us to participate wherever we felt led. If the business hit the skids, we would have plentiful offers of shelter and home.
The news continues in the disregard for black lives. A constant replay on Twitter of #blacklivesmatter and the injustice displayed toward black and brown bodies. The failure to indict the officers in Tamir Rice’s death this week came as no surprise to anyone. Families experiencing what no family should have to, death, suffering by those commissioned to protect and serve. Clearly a systemic breakdown, another lavish display of our collective simmering racism and white privilege.
The climate of fear escalating for people on both sides. One side afraid of losing influence and power, the other afraid to walk down the street or play at the park – knowing justice very well may not be served.
As a Christian, my call, my greatest assignment as a Jesus follower is to be a refuge – for myself and for others. How do I love and show grace to myself? My family? How am I providing relief to those in my world? Who is suffering that I can bear some burden?
In providing refuge for another, there is great risk, but also infinite reward. Comfort, time and money may be endangered, but the payout is remarkable. Our work is humility. Humility allows us to ask the questions, to seek the answers, to examine our insides and reach conclusions.
I can’t help but wonder: what if the tables were turned last November in Cleveland and my little boy was shot, lying in the snow, with no-one to tend to his young form? His sister unable to reach him, unable to lie beside him to comfort, to press her hands into the bleeding holes. My soul, my heart would shatter into millions of tiny pieces.
What if I was there? Would I move Heaven and Earth to reach Tamir? To comfort him in his time of greatest need? I don’t know. I’d like to think my life would have room for such action, that I would demonstrate mercy and compassion in this horrific moment. I hope and pray inconvenience and comfort level would not be my main considerations.
My comfort level is nominal contrasted with the gross, vile, heart-wrenching, debilitating suffering in my own backyard. Discomfort is guaranteed when I ask key questions regarding my privilege, my opportunities. Never is it fun to challenge our assumptions, reactions, inconsistencies. Never. But, lives depend upon our erection of a fortress, a refuge, against the cold, bitter, frigid night. Those of us gifted must offer relief, beginning with the simple: a head nod, a smile, a kind word, a written letter, a phone call, a donation, a seeking sense of curiosity, asking questions, giving the benefit of the doubt, learning.
I look outside, the gently falling snow, the gorgeous landscape – my refuge. My gratitude, my gifts must propel me to do something, and in doing that small something, maybe I might offer a modicum of hope to this aching family and a multitude of others in like circumstances.