Monday, January 2, 2017

Milk for my Tea

The year I spent living in the desert of north Sudan had some life-risking moments, not least of which was exposure to the blazing sun when temperatures regularly exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in the shade. The times we got stuck far removed from any source of shade, or of any human existence for that matter, due to vehicle failure or inhospitable terrain were not uncommon. So you can imagine the relief we felt when after a long day of driving, we'd find a place of shelter – a hope of hospitality – amidst the desert heat. Finding it could be a matter of life or death.

I remember one desert shelter we found that was made out of about a bazillion desert sticks that largely blocked the hot sunlight but which allowed the desert breeze to easily flow through the hut. What a pleasure it was to rest there. The host in that remote establishment was a camel herder by trade, and said that, though he could, he wouldn't trade all his camels for a life of carefree luxury, for then (he jokingly asked), "Where would I get milk for my tea?" He was a man at rest in a shelter surrounded by a hostile environment.

Which begs the question of me: Am I at rest in my environment? Or do I think I need to trade my environment for one of my own making in order to enjoy rest in this world? Or can I find rest in this life despite what the elements around me are throwing my way? It's a question I need to periodically ask myself, and one which I've recently found that Psalm 61:1-4 helps me to answer.

This psalm of David was written in unfavourable circumstances. David was crying out to God and was struggling to feel God's nearness: "From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint..." (Psalm 61:2a). God seemed far away, and David was tired. I expect even his prayers felt tired, as I know mine do at times. But then as David finished the above sentence, he shifted his focus to who God is: "...lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2b). David knew that God was bigger than his circumstances; stronger than the hostile forces of his environment. "For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings." (Psalm 61:3-4).

We rightly emphasize the fact that God is Emmanuel – that God dwells with us and in us, never leaving us or forsaking us – because that's extremely encouraging and reassuring! But King David turned this around and encouraged himself with the fact that we can dwell with God! God invites us into His tent so that we can find shelter with Him from a hostile environment – from the difficult circumstances in which we may find ourselves. The Apostle Paul went further along these lines, saying that we are "seated with Him [God] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). What a refuge that represents! Our "life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2)!

"Let me dwell in Your tent forever..." Yes, please! I never want to leave it. The storms will rage around it, but never inside it. For God is "a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy." And I will always have milk for my tea as I share fellowship with my God.

© 2017 by Ken Peters