You are my hiding place
“You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” Psalm 32:8
I have told the story before, I think, about my time in the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, in my eighth and ninth year of life. I was chronically sick as a boy and my parents took me to National Jewish in Denver so that they could try new, innovative treatment, immunotherapy (new at the time), and other medications that might help me live a “normal” life. After five days of testing, my parents had to return to North Carolina, my four siblings, and my father’s work. I was left in a strange place, with strangers, and felt terribly alone. I struggled for many months to adjust to my new life in the Hospital. The nurses were patient but finally they would simply tell me to go back to bed, when I would wake up for the third or fourth time in the same night, wanting to go home. I finally found, when I was most lonely and blue, I could go to the recreation room at the end of the hall. There, amidst the ping pong tables, I would look out on the city from a window and pray to a God that I was just beginning to know. I prayed mostly to be teleported home (of course) but there was a sense, too, that in this special place I wasn’t alone; God, or something greater than little ol’ me was there, too.
Lent, in some ways, represents a world that is in turmoil, and we are called to center ourselves more firmly in God’s reality. God is our hiding place, when we need to “hide” from the world. God’s blessedness provides us shelter, however, even in the midst of the world’s depravity and/or during the garden variety struggles that so often come along. I think what I am trying to say is that it is nice to have a church, valley, mountain, beach, rec room, or person we can go to and find peace, hope, quiet, or whatever we need in any given time or situation. But Lent calls to us to make God our hiding place, the place where we can feel not only safe but blessed, saved, and loved. There is a wonderful old prayer called the Anima Christi and part of it prays, “O good Jesus, hear me; within your wounds, hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from you…” Can we, as a Lenten practice, learn that our very first place of respite, our go to location of first resort, whether lost or filled with joy, is into the very wounded and healed body of Jesus, and discover who we might become, how strong we are, with God’s help?