A Refuge During Coronavirus

For about three weeks now, I’ve been counting.  Counting on the CDC to present me with concrete data, so that I know my risk level. I’ve been counting on disinfectant to do what the labels promise. Counting on my news app to refresh every 20 seconds with more hopeful headlines.  Counting the number of cases in Texas, in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Jersey, Michigan, New Hampshire, Illinois, and on and on… dots on the worldwide map that aren’t dots, but the people I love.  I’ve stood in the grocery store, staring at empty shelves and counted on one hand how many rolls of toilet paper are in my house.  Grim outlook, I tell you.  And I’ve been counting sheep at night in bed because it’s getting harder to fall asleep when the world is sick.
But all this counting isn’t adding up to peace.  And way down deep in my gut and in my heart I know that the absence of Coronavirus does not equal the presence of peace and refuge.  In the style of beloved author, Anne Lamott, I hate that this is true! I really hate that my soul requires the blessed assurance of a higher love, regardless of a pandemic.
Perhaps it’s because I have lived in central Texas for 15 years, enduring the scorching sun that I’m literally and figuratively drawn to the idea of respite and refuge in the shade. So many times I’ve stood in the blazing sun, squinting, sweating, searching my surroundings for a few square feet of shadow to stand under.  Many a time, I’ve awkwardly crouched under a paltry hackberry tree, in hopes to cool off even one degree. 
I want refuge for my body from the elements, but I also crave it for my heart when I feel so exposed to fear. Apparently this value I place on shade as a refuge has been a thing for, well… everyone….since the beginning of time.   In fact, it’s a common theme in the Bible. 
I feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  I feel you, good sir. These days, I feel afraid.  I wish I had a deserted island that my family and I could run to.  But I don’t. And neither did Elijah.  Instead, he ran to the shade of a broom tree. He knew he couldn’t manage his fear unless he got himself to a place of refuge.  Under its shade he fell asleep. And when he woke up (probably a little less afraid because sleep helps) God told him to eat something.  (God is wonderfully pragmatic like that).  After he ate, Elijah then found a cave to sleep in for the night.  He went from shade to shade, rest to rest, refueling as he went and trusting in God as best he could. And that was enough. 
So, I’m claiming Psalm 91 to get me from refuge to refuge in these strange days of Coronavirus.  When I feel afraid, I’m running in my heart to the shade of God’s love.  Do I believe he loves us?  We all have to wrestle with it now.  I believe God wants me to reach out to him for shelter from fear.  Now is the time. Now is the only time.
I’m opening my Bible (not my news app) this morning to Psalm 91.  As I read the ancient words, I feel my skin cool, as though I sit under the shade of a rocky overhang in the desert.  The heat from my head lifts in this shade.  My temperature lowers and my breathing gets easier in the shadow of this rock. I’m trusting this shelter…I’m counting on it.  And He’s enough for my needs right now.  “Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91: 1-2