Monday, June 4, 2012

Rock of Fire

My oldest daughter has finally realized that she will soon be leaving her wild and rugged Colorado in exchange for the cornfields of Ohio.   And so climbing a 14,000 ft. mountain is on her agenda. Oh, she has been to the top of a few by car, Mt. Evans and Pike's Peak to be exact, but never conquered one with a climb.  And so we've begun training our bodies for such an event.

Saturday afternoon we set off on a four mile hike, no big deal.  We decided at the onset that this would be an exercise hike and so we planned to really book it.  No dilly dallying on rocks or stopping to smell the sage.  We've done this hike many times before, and so were taken aback when we ran into some difficulties.  Our town is littered with shade trees, irrigated lawns, and swamp coolers.  With all that we sometimes forget that we live in a desert       . . . an unforgiving and very harsh desert. 

Normally we would never think of venturing out on a hike at the hottest time of the day, but since clouds teased of cooler temperatures we thought nothing of it.  About half way up the trail we realized our mistake.  It was brutally hot and the trail we'd chosen provided little shade with massive, sheer, red rock faces.  The rock just absorbed all that heat, therefore emitting even more heat.  That's when Ivy came up with the term, "rock of fire". 

But the real danger came when we realized we were running out of water.  We brought what we thought was sufficient, but needed more than usual considering the conditions.  I secretly confided with Heather that we should reserve what water we had left for her younger sisters.  We gravitated to patches of shade along the trail, drawn to them like a magnet, and found ourselves lingering there, not very eager to venture back out into the sun and further down the trail.

I've been studying the book of Ruth through my writing and have come to the climax of the book, where Ruth comes to the feet of Boaz and he covers her with the corner of his cloak.  And while hiking I could not help but think of Jesus as my strong tower, just as those rock cliffs soared high above us, solid rock, fearsome in their fiery heat.  Yet when we hiked near their base, those same rocks provided a place of refuge, a shade from the heat of the trail, a covering, a protection from the elements.

There is no escape from God's powerful, all consuming holiness, the rock of fire, except near His heart where we find the shade of grace, soothing respite from the journey before us.  I have to wonder, do I long for His presence as earnestly as I long for shade on a blistering day?  I love to dwell in the shadow of His wings, in the cleft of the Rock, where I am completely safe to be vulnerable with God, yet hidden from the harshness of the world in which I live.  But how often do I really seek that place?

I've been acutely aware of the brash unashamed culture around me through some experiences with my daughter this week, assumptions of others that her college morals will be based on "what everybody does."   Even the manager of the pool where my daughter works expressed his frustration at trying to keep the pool family friendly.  Much of the modern secular music has swear words in their lyrics, so they cannot pump that out through their speakers.  A dilemma, the unforgiving heat of the day in which we live. 

Yet God has called us to travel in the midst of our culture that we might influence others to find their refuge in Christ Jesus, a shade from the grit and dust of the desert.  And for those that have known the shade of the rock, God sends respite. 

There was not even a breeze and by this time I had a headache, was nauseated, and concerned for my children.  I felt rather irresponsible for getting ourselves into this situation but still knew the mercy of God.  So I prayed.  God, could you send us wind?  And the wind came, cooling our sweat drenched skin.

God is full of grace and truth . . . holy, yet loving and good.  He is a rock of fire, terrifying, but offering intimacy near His heart, a shade from the heat of day, a covering of protection.  It is in this place that we are renewed and refreshed to face the heat of the desert.   I plan to rest there often this summer.  What say you? 

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