We’ve been to the river house once before. Last year, it was our family refuge after a life-altering discovery about an event that had happened to one of our children. We needed a place to flee to and circle the wagons. Eager for peace, thirsty for solitude, and utterly spent with worry and grief, we simply relished each other’s company. A time of healing, I was amazed at what miracles can be worked through an abundance of sun, fresh air, and water. The river was gentle and seemed to understand our fragility as the sun burned warmth and hope into the very marrow of our bones.
This year, the river is raging. Destruction from the massive flooding this past fall is apparent everywhere. Trees are bent low to the ground, debris caked on their limbs, vegetation completely stripped from their banks. The landscape is barren, utterly desolate. In some ways, it seems the perfect metaphor for our lives this past year. Innocence lost, we have been left, raw and open to the winds of fear and anxiety. Much like the scarred land in the wake of the flood, this past year has left its mark on us.
Yet I can’t help but look closer, dig deeper, and recognize the handiwork of an almighty, loving, and yes, even merciful, God. The past year has been excruciating. In many ways, it still is. And yet, the stripping away, the decimation of our trust in man, and all the earthly promises of this world are so crucial for the true growth of our souls. In God alone is our refuge. So cliché, yet so painfully obvious to me now. And, in surveying the landscape of our riverside refuge, the surrounding beauty stands in such stark contrast to the destruction. The wildflowers obstinately bloom, and the birds rebelliously glorify the rising sun and its Creator. The flooding has left new pools and waterfalls to explore, and the grass has returned in abundance. All creation courageously continues to beat a praise of hope and love.
We learned an important lesson at our river house refuge this year, and we came away with a sense of hope and courage and renewed purpose. God is our refuge. He alone is our strength. In him we find our everlasting joy . . . in the shadow of his wings.
Have mercy on me, God, have mercy on me. In you I seek refuge. In the shadow of your wings I seek refuge till harm pass by (Psalm 57:2).