After six weeks in the back of my tour bus in Scotland, it was time to go home. Mountains of clothes and shoes surrounded my open suitcase begging for a place to belong. This was just the beginning of the hardest part of travel, which was the time in between finishing my tasks touring castles and historic sites, and returning to the familiar. Home. The ache in my gut was real. I was homesick, but not for Colorado. Facing the challenges that would greet us upon our return, I longed for security and protection. I started to question, “Why am I still here?” I folded my hot pink rain coat and held it to my chest as I prayed, “God, why did You not simply wisk me off to to Your heavenly mansion the moment I confessed, “I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I did nothing to earn my eternal life, and He alone earned my salvation for me.” Why should we wonder through the trials of this world when a single word from Your lips would place believers firmly in the center of perfection?” “Why are there so many lessons?”
As usual I was trying to rush to the end as opposed to delighting in God’s promises for me. We never face situations that are out of His control. Each trial, each temptation is an opportunity to rest in His refuge.
As I smelled the dampness of my raincoat, my mind trailed off to a recent hike in the Cairngorm Mountains eleven miles to the summit of Lochnagar, best known for its corrie face, or amphitheater formed by glacial erosion. Steep cliffs and stunning vistas rewarded hill walkers with beautiful photographic opportunities. I waited for about a decade to reach the summit of Lochnagar. It was simply a timing issue. Trying to juggle a full schedule of guests prevented luxury of a 12 hour hike. The situation always resulted in the words, “We’ll do it next year.”
So when the morning of our expedition finally arrived, I didn’t care that my IPhone warned of a rainstorm, complete with wind and lightning. I put my first cup of coffee to my lips and asked my husband, Michael. “Are we still on?”
He just smiled and threw our backpacks in the Land Rover. The plan was to head through the back gate at the Royal Family’s Balmoral Estate, and start from the trailhead there. The end of the hike would bring us to Queen Victoria’s summer home on the banks of Loch Muick, and from there we would circle back about 4 miles to our vehicle.
Michael turned on the windshield wipers about halfway to the trail head. I kept a steady stream of chatter going so he would know I wasn’t about to give in to the adverse weather. This was Scotland after all, what was a little rain storm? My trusty hot pink rain coat was always my trusted companion through countless Scottish storms. This was no different…or was it?
By the time we reached the summit, my rendition of “Singing in the Rain”, grew old. Lightning surrounded us as Lochnagar’s amphitheater intensified the sound of thunder. Cliffs were no longer visible, which meant every step had to be placed exactly on the trail. My heart pounded in my chest, not from exertion but from exhaustion. And then the wind changed making sure that every raindrop pierced my eyes, my nose or my mouth.
How many times do we find ourselves in a situation we didn’t expect, and just pray for refuge? As we face that storm, where do we seek relief and rescue?
We continued towards Queen Victoria’s cottage, which has beennlocked and boarded for many years. In my antique collection have photos of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill having tea on the banks of Loch Muick a mere thirty feet in front of the house when it was in its prime.
I began to mentally set small goals for myself. If I could make it to Queen Victoria’s, the cliffs would be behind us and four miles back to the 4 x 4 wouldn’t be so bad. I grabbed Michael’s hand. “Did you know the Scots have a specific word for a resting place?”
Raindrops cascaded from his hood as he crinkled his eyes and stared at me. “What is it?”
“A spittal is where the drovers would rest with their cows and sheep in ancient days.” I stepped a little lighter, happy to impress him with my knowledge, even if I couldn’t turn off the rain. “A bothy is also a shelter for hikers who get caught in the weather…like we are. It’s a temporary refuge.”
Michael threw his arm around my neck, pulling my ear to his mouth. “Did you forget that Queen Victoria’s has a bothy in the back of it?”
The knowledge of the refuge made the rest of the hike pass quickly. To my relief when we arrived we were not greeted with signs that read, “What were you thinking? It is dangerous to hike in a storm!” Instead we found a note with water and snacks that read, “Sorry you are in this situation. We had the same thing happen to us a few days ago. We left wood in the fireplace, and there are matches on the mantel. We left water and some food. If you have some extras of your own, maybe you will leave them for the next hikers.”
As our coats dried next to the roaring fire, I spread peanut butter and peach jam onto a piece of white bread. “I can’t wait to get home.”
Michael crossed his ankles, as he placed them on the chair next to him and smirked. “Did you learn anything today?”
“Actually I did… the value of living under God’s shelter of grace in times of trouble.”
There are approximately 45 references to God as a refuge in the book of Psalms. David poured his heart out to God and asked God to intervene on his behalf. He knew the safest place to be was the center of God’s will. Psalm 18:2 (NIV) reassures us “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Even though God shelters His children and He promises He will never abandon them, this doesn’t put us into an elite group that is assured a trouble free life. We can still expect difficult and even dangerous situations. The difference is we can face adversity with confidence drawing us closer to Him. Jesus told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV) I can almost hear Him whisper, “Don’t worry, girl…I’ve got this!”-
As I clicked the closures on my blue vintage suitcase I realized that through my trials God accomplishes great work..without a storm there is no need for refuge… if I skip the lesson, I miss the blessing.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I am so excited for the day you open your arms and exclaim, “Welcome Home!”, but I trust you. I know that I am here growing closer and learning to rely you more every day. I help me to seek your refuge “knowing You will be a stronghold for the oppressed. A stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9). Thank you for being my hiding place and my shield as I wait for Your word. (Psalm 119:114)
In Jesus Name I pray. Amen