My Refuge: A Letter
This morning, I decided to start pulling out the verses from the jar. I was hoping to pick Exodus 14:14, which says, “Stand still. I will fight for you.” If not that, a nagging little piece of my heart wanted something like that. Just as Your Son undoubtedly used His carpentry skills to build things while He was here, I’ve been furiously busy, building new walls around my heart over the last while. I’ve been preparing for a battle in which I never expected, nor wanted, to find myself. It seems every day something comes along against which I have to build a new wall. I’m fighting to protect every corner of my heart—protect it against a new diagnosis, or treatment, or test; protect it against a bone-deep fatigue; protect it against words that instantly make me cry; protect it against against words that haven’t come yet, but may soon; protect it against the loss of something insignificant in the grand scheme of things but which feels like a potentially monumental loss. I’m trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, of stability, for my girls. It’s a gift they don’t understand or appreciate, yet, but I do, because I know how traumatizing the absence of stability can be. It feels like I’m going uphill in a never-ending, constant stream of battles. And, sometimes when I least expect it, a heavy sense of weariness settles over me, stealing my breath and making me want to do nothing more than hide.
You see, frankly, I’m tired of fighting.
I’ve been fighting a really, really long time. And…. and I just… I don’t really want to be strong, Abba. Gather yourself up, Tiffini. Did You hear me whisper that to myself yesterday morning when getting out of bed seemed an overwhelmingly daunting task? The fight to maintain a sense of optimism, to keep treading water even when in the midst of a flood, is painful; it squeezes my heart and makes me long to lay my head on a shoulder, close my eyes and pretend, just for a little while, that everything truly is fine. The sunshine was out yesterday; it felt warm and everyone spoke of doing yard work. I bought some flower seeds, some daisies and forget-me-nots and some other variety; I wanted to do yard work. I wanted to get out there and dig in the dirt and relish in the first true hint of Spring we’ve had in weeks. But I just couldn’t do it. Just the thought exhausted me. I believe in Spring, and in Summer, and in goodness and fairness and puppies roaming about open fields of dandelions. Yet, my strength is failing. Hope’s flag has been whipping violently in the wind so that every move I make feels fragile because I know that, the slightest bump, might rip a tear down the center of hope itself.
So I was sort of hoping for a verse to remind me that this isn’t a battle for You because Your strength never tires.
Instead, though, the verse I pulled out was Psalms 119:114:
You are my refuge and my shield. I have put my hope in Your word.
I read it and felt my heart skip a beat. I read it a second time and immediately closed my eyes and whispered, thank you. It’s awe-inspiring, how You always know exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it. I thought I was looking for strength, but what I needed the most was comfort.
You are my refuge and my shield…
I’ve been hiding a really long time, Abba. I was a very scared little girl, hiding behind blind obedience and a pad of paper. Part of me is still that scared little girl, hiding behind a cheerful smile and a steady drumbeat of optimism and sheer willpower. The only shield I really have most days is the one that keeps people from getting too close and I’m not altogether convinced that’s a very helpful shield. Every night, I hug my pillow and hide away in a make-believe world in which there are Ash-es and meaningful conversations and real hugs. Imagination is undoubtedly the best shield I have; it’s served me quite well. But this time ’round…. when the world came crashing down this time, I didn’t immediately seek out a pen and paper. Instead, all I could think about was one word: prayer. I wanted to draw closer to You because I felt blindsided with no time to build the fortress around my soul that I needed. Like a small child who hides behind her father’s legs when confronted with the possibility of going to school for the first time, I wanted to run behind someone who could help. Someone who knew me from the inside out, from the only One I have ever unconditionally accepted help. Prayer helped, reading Scriptures helped but, honestly, I needed more than a pat on the shoulder. I needed a fortress, a refuge, a shield; something to block the pain long enough for me to gather myself up again.
I have put my hope in Your word.
I do not know what gave me the idea to find 365 comforting verses. All I know is that, when the idea came, I instantly knew it was You. The words comfort, friends and trust rang again and again in my ears. So here I am now, with 201 (so far) verses that, for whatever reason, speak to me. They’re in a jar and I’m pulling one out per day because I need someone to lean on. Being alone is too hard. I need someone who understands, who really feels the sorrow and the heartbreak and the confusion and the fear and doesn’t have to turn away from it. I need someone who knows the answers, who knows with one hundred percent certainty that, however it works out, it will work out. I need someone I trust doesn’t ever want to harm me, someone whose only desire is to see me happy, loved and safe. I need You. And so I cling to what You gave me: Your word and the promises in it. This morning’s scripture tells me it’s okay to be afraid and reminds me that I can run to You, that I can hide behind You. When the past catches up to me, or when new mountains spring up before my very eyes, I have a hiding place: You. When I run to Your open arms, the embrace is real and warm; I can feel it settling over my heart and into my mind, like a magnet, pulling me closer and closer to You. The closer I come, the more peace I feel. And when strength returns, then I can unfold myself from Your embrace and face the day. When my spirit’s been refreshed and my will restored, then You’ll put Your hand on my face and tell me to stand back while You conquer what I cannot.
I know why I didn’t get the Exodus 14:14 verse now.
I didn’t get that verse because I needed You to remind me that You know the deepest desires of my heart, You hear and respond to my deepest needs, the ones I don’t even know how to voice. Before I need a rescuer, I needed shelter, arms in which to hide during the worst of the worst. You -will- fight and win for me but You also do something more, something that matters more to me than strength, something that tells me my emotional side isn’t only tolerated but valued, something that promises You’re not only here to fight for and protect me, but also to encourage and uplift:
You love me.
Even when I stubbornly refuse help. Even when I forget how to trust. No matter what, You love me. Enough to know that, even though I’m never going to admit it out loud, what I long for the most isn’t a valiant rescue but a sure and protective embrace. Enough to offer me a place behind You to hide because You remember the little girl who felt safer crowded up next to the wall at night: You know I need a place to retreat. Love is the greatest medicine of all. It gives me strength, it gives me comfort, it gives me peace and, most of all, it makes me feel wrapped in a warm embrace. It takes away the doubt and replaces it with the knowledge that hope exists. It redefines purpose and challenges me to believe in the person You see in me.
Thank You for the beautiful verse that has sat in my mind all day. A verse that reminds me that love isn’t just strong, it’s tender and vulnerable, too; a verse that speaks to the heart of who I am and also to who You are. Today, a verse reminds me that when I read and trust in what Your word says, then I have found a safe place; a harbor in the storm. No matter how high the waters rise, no matter how violent the winds become, no matter how treacherous the way out, there is peace, and there is renewal and there is hope when I look to You. The words thank you always feel inadequate to me; I usually feel a need to prove or to show what something meant to me. But I have nothing to offer You. I’m a broken, flawed, inadequate and rather insignificant part of a small world. Nothing I could offer would match, or even come close, to what You’ve already given: in Your Son, in my daughters and in the multitude of ways You’ve helped me survive for 33 years already. But… I remember from whence You’ve brought me and…
I love You.