Years ago, our young family gained a keen appreciation of our home’s refuge while backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Each spring, we’d load our packs and venture into the wilderness for a week to ten days with friends.
Unlike Florida trails, the AT takes you huffing and puffing up one mountain, pounding the knee-jolting downside, and then up another steep incline. I remember one climb in particular that tried my resolve under the crushing weight of my 40-pound pack. I spotted a dead frog on the ground and remarked to a friend behind me, “Oh, look at the dead frog. I wonder how he died.” “Climbing up this mountain!” he quipped.
On the trail, everything you need is on your back – water, food, shelter, bedding, toiletries, water filter, stove, maps, and all the other necessities you carefully weighed – on the scale and in your mind. “Do I really need to bring this?” Oh, and rain gear!
No Refuge from the Storm
We’d plan each day’s hike to end at a shelter with a water source nearby. On one stormy day, thoughts of reaching the dry haven powered our feet onward. Other hikers were equally driven, and the refuge was packed full when we arrived. No room at the inn.
The only nearby clearing for tents was downhill from the shelter. We set up camp in the pelting rain. Whenever we looked up toward the shelter, we’d see a collage of faces in a mass of rain gear. We were their entertainment!
The men pumped water from the stream while the Moms and kids – through much effort – managed to cook dinner under a tarp that sheltered us from most of the rain.
Restless attempts to escape puddled tent edges filled the night. Morning’s dreary light finally arrived with unrelenting rain. We muddled our way through an oatmeal breakfast and packed up sopping gear. We sensed pity from the sea of faces uphill.
A New Resolve
Back on the trail, the rain stopped, and the sun peeked through the clouds. I placed one foot in front of the other, wincing as my knees exploded in pain with each step. I mused, “What kind of vacation is this? I could be soaking in a hot tub in the Keys!” I devised a new plan – let the guys go backpacking, and take my daughter to Key Largo.
The delight of home greeted us at the end of our arduous trek. Ah, air-conditioned comfort with no rain, mosquitoes, or dirt to contend with. A flushing toilet, running water, lights to switch on and off, food in the fridge and pantry, a stove that worked with the flip of a knob, a microwave, and best of all, a bed! Yes, backpacking intensifies a grateful heart for home.
A True Home
Psalm 91 expounds God’s promises to those who make Him their dwelling place, their home.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust! (Psalms 91:1-2)
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge; (Psalms 91:4)
Verse 9 reminds us that all the promises in this psalm are for those who have made God their home – their refreshing haven of rest.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place. (Psalms 91:9)
The believer of Psalm 91 makes the Lord his dwelling place, not an occasional visit. He sets up home in God. After a night of restful sleep, protected from terror and pestilence (verses 5 and 6), he awakens to seek God and praise Him.
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.” (Psalms 63:1)
Life without dwelling in God is indeed a dry and thirsty land without water.
My Life without Shelter or Refuge
Forty-five years ago, I lived in rebellion against God and His plan for my life. My life revolved around getting high on illegal drugs. I lived with someone I wasn’t married to. The tiny house we could afford to rent was anything but a safe haven. My nights were robbed of restful sleep by fear and anxiety. The little slumber I found was filled with horrific nightmares of blood and gore. When I got up and turned on the kitchen light, the small dinner table came alive with scurrying cockroaches. Too tired to deal with the pestilence, I’d turn off the light and take wary steps toward the bathroom through the terrifying dark. An occasional rat would intensify my dread as it darted by my bare feet.
My estranged mother found where I lived and brought me a Bible. The more I read, the more I wanted to know Jesus. I asked him to help me understand the Scriptures. He brought me to local missionaries who held Bible study groups and classes.
As I sat through my first class, I devoured words of truth I never heard because I never opened the Bible to see them for myself. God’s light flooded my mind and heart, and spiritual darkness fled, releasing my tormented soul. God miraculously delivered me and gave me His gift of Holy Spirit. I knew who I belonged to – my Heavenly Father who loved me beyond measure!
A New Life in Christ
I quit drugs, for I found a far better high in communion with the Lord. My boyfriend wasn’t interested in the Bible, so I moved out, and God led me to a beautiful apartment close to the missionaries’ home. I signed up for a year of missionary work, filled with miracles, healing, and the joy of bringing God’s truth to hungry hearts.
I was previously a night owl, waking up exhausted and hurling myself into the day. But now I knew the joy of peaceful, sweet sleep and waking up refreshed to praise, pray, and read the Bible.
This is still my favorite part of the day – waking up rested and filled with thanksgiving to God. I make my requests known to Him, rejoicing that He hears and gives freely, even before seeing my prayers’ results. I ask Him for understanding as I read and study His Word, and He graciously draws me closer to Him.
Experience taught me that life without God is a train wreck. Seeking Him each day brings me home – in His loving care and provision. Even when life flings me a wrench, I know I have a haven of peace in Him. Under His wings, I find His solutions and everything I need.
And no, I don’t do this perfectly. I make mistakes, big time. But in God’s mercy and grace, I find refuge and shelter to call home.