EASTERTIDE: Psalm 18
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
My God, my rock in whom I take refuge….”
Our cabin on the first leg of our Spring Break hiking vacation is named “Your Hiding Place.” Far back from a quiet country road, it is a perfect cozy retreat complete with fireplace, Jacuzzi, and a veranda with two chairs. On our first evening we sipped a 12 year old beverage while we watched chirping sparrows, a goldfinch, a titmouse, and a cardinal spar for space on a feeder. We walked on the sacred hill country soil, listened to the silence of the live oaks, heard the call of a hawk, and communed with a deer.
And we thought about hiding. Sometimes we don’t need a refuge from all that is negative, stressful, and dangerous. Sometimes we just need to hide from our ordinary lives, from our ordinary jobs, from housecleaning and bill paying, so that we can remember what is Real. As Candy said later in our trip, “This is what is real: the rocks, the cactus, the dirt, and the mountains. Back there is what we have to do, but this is reality.”
What a prayerful exclamation! Thomas Merton defined the deepest form of prayer, contemplation, as “a long loving look at the real.” On that veranda, on our hikes in the Davis Mountains, and sharing wine with old friends, we found the Real. God was our companion, a Presence in every moment.
I sometimes think it strange that I need a refuge from a life I enjoy, but I do. I need to take time from the ordinary distractions so that I can experience once more the extraordinary Presence that is my hiding place. Many years ago I was in the third day of a silent retreat at the Cenacle Retreat house listening to a tape by the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh on basic Buddhist teachings. “You become a Buddhist,” he said, “by repeating this phrase: I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, and I take refuge in the Sangha.”
How similar to our life with Christ! I take refuge in Christ, my lover and my friend. I take refuge in our sacred stories and spiritual tradition. And I take refuge in Covenant, my community of practice where moments of vulnerability, intimacy, and shared meaning make genuine community possible. I may not be able to find my way to cactus, west Texas dirt, mountains, rocks, and old friends, but I can find my way to Covenant, where I remember that refuge is always available and that the really Real is always present.
- Mike Luedde