It was the summer of 1996. Our family of three had called China “home” for 9 months. Baby #1 had just celebrated his first birthday. Baby #2 was on the way. We had been married for all of two years. And I told Charly I now knew why people considered divorce.
We were hosting a summer program of 6 American college grads, and Charly was committed full-time to planning and carrying out all of their activities with his English students at the university. Our home at the time consisted of two connected dorm rooms in the Foreign Students Dormitory on campus and our living room/bedroom was often full of students (stretching for my introverted personality). I participated in the group activities as much as I could, but found myself growing resentful of all the time Charly was gone. My needs were, very obviously to me, not being met.
We were out for a family walk on campus one evening when the sticky heat was more bearable. Charly stopped to talk with one of his students and I knew it was going to be longer than a couple of minutes. So I decided not to wait for him. The raindrops starting to fall from the gray clouds overhead matched my mood, and I quickened my pace, gripping the handles of the stroller more tightly. As I paused under a tree with large branches, I looked straight up and thought to myself, “These branches should keep me from getting wet.” But they didn't. I got soaked.
That night I realized that the shelter I wanted to work in my life wasn't working. It was the beginning of my journey of learning, as a new wife and young mom, that I couldn't expect Charly to meet all of my needs. Only God could. My unrealistic expectations of him were not good for me or for our marriage. My Creator alone would always be with me, and He understood my needs even better than my hormone-imbalanced self. Only He promised to be my Shelter, Protector, and Refuge. Not my husband.
Our friend Fitz recently sent this to me from Jill Kelly's Prayers of Hope for the Brokenhearted, and I love what she says about God as our Shelter:
“No matter what’s going on around me and in me, I am safe with You. I’m safe in You. You are the place I run to, the place where I hide. The place where nothing and no one can hurt me. The place where I am fully known and accepted. You are always safe.
When I don’t know where to go or what to do, I can rush to where I know You will be. When I don’t have the words and my mind is cluttered with fear, I can seek You and find You.
You are not far from me. You will not hide Your face from me. You are near to the brokenhearted. You are always with me. I am never alone.
Because You are safe, I can be who I am. I don’t have to pretend. You have chosen me and will not reject me. I will not be dismayed or discouraged. You will strengthen me and help me. You will uphold me.
As I wait patiently for You to deliver me from this place of deep sorrow and heartbreak, I will trust You. I will not be anxious or fret.
I will come to You when I am weary and burdened, and You will give me rest. In You I find rest for my wounded soul. Because You are able to do beyond what I can fully comprehend, I will wait for You, and in Your perfect timing all will be made new.
You are the Good Shepherd. You gather Your lambs in Your mighty, loving arms and carry them. You carry me close to Your heart, where I am held in the palm of Your hand. You will protect me and keep me safe. I am safe in You.
In the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Psa27/5
This week I read this beautiful Reflection on Loneliness from Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen by Charles Ringma:
“...we need to be alone. For we need to rediscover ourselves as much as we need to bask in the searchlight of God's love and light—to face our pain and lack of resolution with new hope and faith. In learning to be alone and still, we make a way to meet God with openness and honesty. It is there we can rediscover that we cannot blame others or live in unreality.
Nouwen speaks of the importance of embracing a loneliness “that cannot be removed by any other sinful human being.” For it is not to others that should first of all turn; instead we should create the necessary space to meet with God Himself. While we may fear this place of quietness and openness, it is the only road that will lead to new life. For from new insights come new motivations, which can give us new strength, and this will only come when we are loved, sheltered, and affirmed, as well as corrected by the One who truly knows and loves us.”
Shelter me, O God. In You alone I find my refuge, as well as renewed strength and hope for the future. Thank you for helping me return to You when my other shelters fail.
Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Shelter