ROSCOMMON, MI – Growing up in Florida I spent a lot of time around the water, either at the beach, fishing in the rivers, or just chillin’ in the beautiful natural springs abundant all-around Central Florida. To help facilitate the enjoyment of our natural habitat, my dad bought my brother and I a bright red, sixteen-foot canoe. On one particular occasion we took the canoe in the river and paddled around to our favorite fishing spots. This was not as much fun as you might think because a canoe is not really meant to be in big open rivers, and paddling against the wind is extremely tiresome. Nevertheless, being young men, we had more brawn than brains, and were willing to throw caution to the wind if it meant catching more fish.
On this particular outing, a storm blew in while we were on the water. This is typical Florida weather, and another reason not to be on the wide river in a canoe with only two paddles for a motor! Summer storms bring lightning, and Florida is known to be the lightning capital of the United States. Where we were canoeing was also referred to as “Lightning Alley”. This storm proved no different, providing heavy rain, loud thunder and numerous amounts of lightning. We paddled very hard and as fast as we could to reach the shore and seek some sort of shelter. After what seemed like an eternity, we made land, tied the canoe off, and ran up onto the bank of the river. At that same moment, a huge bolt of lightning struck a tree about twenty yards (seemed like two feet) in front of us, and we instantly dropped flat on the ground like a sack of potatoes.
We were scared! There was nowhere to run, no shelter to take refuge, and no idea where lightning was going to strike next. I don’t totally remember, but I feel as if there was a lot of forgiveness asked and bargains made during those ten or so minutes hugging the dirt. Needless to say, as soon as it was safe we paddled quickly back to the dock, loaded up our canoe, and drove home with only wide-eyed looks at each other to communicate what we were feeling. We never took the canoe out in the river again, and we upgraded to a boat with a motor (that’s a whole other story).
Why the story you ask? As we all have been processing through COVID-19 and all of its unique challenges, we have been inundated with many new terms and phrases; “flatten the curve”, “social distancing”, “essential activity.”
The new phrase that brought back this particular fishing memory is the phrase “shelter in place.” On that particular fishing day, we found ourselves in great peril because we had no “shelter” to protect us and keep us safe. We felt helpless, alone, and frightened of an unforeseeable future. As we all have and still continue to journey through the oddities of this pandemic, its impact to the many facets of our lives, feeling helpless, alone, and scared can be a reality for all of us.
Thankfully as Christians, “shelter in place” means not just physical shelter, but most importantly, we have direct access to THE shelter, strong tower and refuge. Jesus is our place of retreat and safety. He is our port in the storm.
In Psalm 18:1-3, David verbalizes this reality of God's shelter by saying“I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.”
Don’t hesitate to lean into this truth - Know and experience the hope, peace and calm of being in THE shelter. Also don’t forget, many of our neighbors do not have this assurance, this shelter. Pray for them and look for any means possible to guide them to the safety of truly “sheltering in place” - the very presence of Jesus our Savior and King!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mick Schatz serves on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. He is the State Director of Spiritual Enrichment and Retreats and lives at Bambi Lake.