Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Place of Sanctuary

By Hazel Holland

This cozy little cabin tucked away somewhere in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by lush evergreens and alpine flowers, overlooking a crystal blue lake with a backdrop of distant snow-covered mountains was my safe haven... an idyllic place of tranquility that I could escape to whenever I needed to get away from the turmoil of life. 

 I liked the idea of placing the mountains in the distance when I drew this remote scene many years ago because I hated the cold.  My memories of trudging through deep snow drifts on my way to and from school during bitterly cold English winters had left an indelible impression of dread on me.  Snow looked pretty enough in pictures, but in reality if you weren't wearing warm enough clothing when you got caught in a blizzard, your feet and hands would be bone-chilling numb by the time you got home from school.

Now as I look back at that time in my life, I realize that this idealistic picture was a symbol of sanctuary for me.  I wanted to find a safe haven that I hoped would shelter me from the coldness and fear that I felt within my own heart.  I wanted to create a place of safety where I could escape from the turmoil and pain I saw in the hearts of others.

As a child I use to dream of escaping into my grandmother's waiting arms whenever I was misjudged or harshly mistreated at home. She was always ready to give me a hug and take me into her heart.  That's why I painted this elderly-looking woman in this idealistic setting, because she represented the love and acceptance I needed, but rarely received at home.

I painted her standing outside looking at the bank of flowers because working with flowers was grandmother's favorite pastime.  Although now as I look back on those childhood memories, I imagine grandma had an ulterior motive for puttering around outside in her flower garden just at the time I would pass by her house after school.  She must have noticed that I was constantly hungry, because she would always place at least one or two of her famous rock buns in my pocket so that I would have something to eat on my way home from school.

One drawback of these life-saving memories was that we didn't always live near grandma. When we did life was bearable, but when we didn't there seemed to be no end to the ugly days...  During those down times I would escape into a world of my own choosing and making in order to numb the terrible pain in my heart. 

But then about twenty years ago something miraculous happened.  My mother finally had the courage to tell me her story...  By sharing her childhood abuse she freed me to let go of mine.  Immediately I began to live life with a new focus.  I chose to move toward my mother for her sake instead of moving away for mine. 

I began to let go of years of unrealistic expectations of what I’d wanted my mother to be for me, because I saw that she was not just the mother who failed me, but a deeply hurt woman whom I failed to love.  Her confession and tears freed me to forgive her for the years of anguish and rejection.  Her honesty freed me to accept my loss.

I began to realize how much more she needed my love that I needed hers... I saw that she had been a child trying to raise a child, and no one understood. Now I wanted to offer her the gift of being understood. I wanted her to taste the joy of being forgiven. I wanted to offer her acceptance with no exception, because that is the kind of agape love God has freely given me.

And that, my friend, is the kind of agape love God has freely given you.  No matter what storms you may be facing right now, and no matter what chaos is surrounding your life, you can find yourself a sanctuary in Jesus Christ.  He can bring beauty out of the ugliest of situations as He brings His healing touch to our waiting hearts.

Now I no longer need to find a place of sanctuary by withdrawing from life, because God has given me sanctuary within His heart.  Jesus is my sanctuary!

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