When I was 17 I hitchhiked through Europe with my brother. It was the 1970s and, as strange as it sounds, my parents seemed OK with this. My brother’s hair was well past his shoulders and I was doing my best to look like Peggy Lipton from the Mod Squad or Susan Day from the Partridge Family. We traveled city to city, carrying backpacks containing a few t-shirts, an extra pair of jeans, a sweat shirt, and minimal toiletries. (So hard to imagine, as now it would take a single backpack just to carry my hair and make up products alone, not to mention skincare!!) We stayed in youth hostels where we met new friends along the way.
One of our destinations was a place called L’Abri, a Christian retreat tucked into the mountains of Switzerland. Founded by a presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania named Francis Schaeffer, L’Abri offered housing and food for travelers and a beautiful setting in which to ask questions about life and Christianity. In today’s world, it sounds a bit cult-ish, but back then, it suited the backpacking community. It was there that I rediscovered my faith – which has been my rock ever since.
The word, “L’Abri” means shelter. And lately, as we’ve been sheltering in place, I’ve been thinking a lot about shelters. A shelter is a refuge, a haven, “something that protects or affords protection” (Merriam Webster.) The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, named shelter as a level 1 basic human need alongside food, drink, sleep, and oxygen. It is the bottom rung of his hierarchy, for without shelter, we are unprotected, uncovered, prey to the elements.
Today “shelter” is an action verb. We are called to shelter in place. We, who are fortunate to have a shelter, are grateful for the protection it offers, though its four walls may seem like they are closing in, as we enter our second month staring at them.
But what if we think beyond those walls and recall what God says about shelters? He claims to BE that dwelling place our soul longs for. And during this forced sheltering, maybe He is inviting us to a Feast. (We have the time!) According to the Old Testament, the Feast of Shelters (or Tabernacles) was to celebrate how God protected the Israelites in the desert, providing shelter in stark conditions.
OK, our feast at this time may be frozen or canned and our shelter may be cramped and small, but if we look up, we may just catch sight of some feathers overhead.
As we shelter in grace.
He will cover you with His feathers
and under His wings you will find refuge (shelter)!
Psalm 91 (now more than ever)