You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
Friends, we are getting deeper into the Lenten season, exploring our own frailty and need for Jesus, even as we consider the journey of Jesus himself. Today I'm simply sitting with an incredible image that I stumbled upon a few days ago.
This photograph was taken in Kenya in 1993 by French Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It's an aerial view of an acacia tree in the barren savannah in Tsavo East National Park.
Take a moment and receive the beauty of this image.
The network of lines you see spiderwebbing from the tree are animal trails, worn deep from years of daily pilgrimage. In a harsh landscape, all sorts of animals are drawn to the acacia tree, seeking the shade of its branches and nourishment from its leaves. This tree is such a profoundly important destination that the entire area surrounding the tree itself is worn bare. So many thoughts here.
This thirty year old photograph is stunning on its own. But it's also provocative as we consider this image in light of our discipleship journey.
Throughout the scriptures, God is a refuge in times of trouble. God is a source of life, making a way in a barren landscape. God is our sustenance. Protector. Shelter. Our rest. And Jesus is the full embodiment of this living God.
So today I'm looking at this image and seeing Jesus in the center as the destination of my journey when I am dry, thirsty, or in need of refuge. When I am seeking rest in the intensity of the desert, or sustenance for the days ahead, where do my well worn paths lead?
If I charted my life from above, would I see this many trails to Jesus?
If we charted our lives from above, would we see this many trails to Jesus?
Too often these questions have been used to induce guilt or beat us down with all the areas we aren't good enough. But it's far better to use them as reminders and invitations. God promises rest and renewal if we continue to find our identity deep God's love and care, rather than wandering around in the desert and hoping to stumble upon something that will sustain us. We all have well worn paths in our lives. But the deepest sense of wholeness will only come when those paths all move toward the source of life and love at the center.
And, (here we go!) what about if we view this as an image for the Body of Christ in the world? Followers of Jesus are called to be the embodiment of God's love, compassion, and redemption in the world. Are people drawn to the refuge and deep life that they experience when they are among Christians? Are we creating that sort of atmosphere as a Jesus-centered movement, where people are drawn to us because they clearly sense the compassionate, other-oriented love of God? We all know that the answer is not always a resounding yes. But rather than give up, perhaps today we sit with this image and ask ourselves:
What can each of us do to ensure that others who are walking through the desert find the love and care of Jesus when they meet us?
The desert journey is something that all of us are familiar with in one way or another. But let us not forget, as spring continues to approach, and resurrection is beginning to come into view on the horizon.... that we always have a profound source of life- to both receive and to offer to others.... if we choose to move toward him.
Jesus, lead me toward your presence throughout my day today, so that I might find rest, and be a refuge to others.