My last Sunday at a church in Northport, AL nearly 20 years ago as the associate pastor before going on leave of absence (the first time) from pastoral ministry, the choir, at my request, sang this as an anthem, 'Til the Storm Passes By.
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand, keep me safe till the storm passes by.
The Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer has been my daily devotional guide for years. It provides for me daily scriptures I can read and follow as much or as little as I desire. Two verses from the Psalms, Psalm 57: 1 and Psalm 61: 4, struck me on consecutive days this week and painted a picture for me.
We can find refuge in the shadow of the Lord's wings until the storm passes by. Years ago, I knew it was time for me to withdraw from ministry for a period. There was a storm in my soul. I was growing more and more unsettled. A leave of absence was an opportunity for me to rest beneath the shadow of his wings. The refuge we find in the Lord is a fresh hope for us these days, too.
Let me abide in your tent forever; find refuge under the shelter of your wings. Selah -- Psalm 61: 4
Again, refuge under his wings, and David prays to be found in God's tent, his presence forever. A mother bird shelters her young beneath her wings when there is eminent danger. I'm comforted by this image.
Selah means to stop and consider. These verses speak to me of what David already knew. He could ask with confidence to find shelter and refuge in the Lord's presence, under the comfort and safety of his wings. Its a place where we belong.
April attended worship Wednesday night alone at the church we've been visiting in Birmingham this month. Due to my work schedule, I had to stay home to go to bed early. During a time of receiving prayer that evening, April heard in her spirit repeatedly, This is not my place.
We belong in God. We're comforted in a time of uncertainty. We belong in the shelter and the refuge of his wings until the storm again passes by.
Finding a church, a faith community, where we feel we belong has been difficult for us. A simple explanation of my desire to go on leave years ago is attributed to feeling I didn't belong as a pastoral leader. It wasn't that I wasn't called to lead in ministry. It was that I was wearing the wrong clothes.
Its hard to believe we don't belong in a congregation. We've worshiped at Word Alive International Outreach near Anniston since we've moved here. We've attempted to link with leaders and small groups. There's never been a sense for either April or me that this is home for us, safe beneath a sheltering wing or a tent protected from the storms of life.
We've attended King's Way Church in Birmingham. The worship has been rich, but this isn't my place.
We belong to each other. We belong to God. We're confident enough to believe we're under the shelter of his wings. Our callings are unique. We're pine trees planted where no such trees thrive. We're ruined for anything else.
There will be a day of belonging, and a people will come along side us. In the meantime, we're confident of the shelter we find beneath his wings, protected 'til the storm passes by.