It was a perfect storm. The dying breath of a hurricane from Bermuda ran smack into a cold front from the Great Lakes in the fall of 1991. This meteorological traffic jam was devastating. It smashed the coastline from Canada to Florida and then barreled on to Puerto Rico, leaving more than 300.000 without power. Damages totaled over $200 million.
The term “perfect storm” describes a mix of circumstances that create a huge mess. Maybe you’ve experienced one of your own. I know I have. I had blown it. Circumstances formed a perfect storm fueled by my mistakes. These mistakes were not smooth stones creating gentle ripples on the surface of my life. They were tidal waves hurling debris and overturning my shoreline. I looked for an escape route. There wasn’t one. I put the covers over my head and refused to get out of bed. That didn’t help. Shame shouted, “Pay! You must pay!” That was the problem. I couldn’t. My efforts to fix things were like stretching a rubber band over a mountain.
I needed help! I learned about refuge. Refuge was more than a hiding place. It comforted, but it also offered answers. I read about cities of refuge in ancient Israel. These cities were equally spaced throughout the country. They were available to everyone. Highways, not just footpaths, led to them. People smoothed ruts, removed stones and built bridges to keep each road passable. Big, bold signs highlighted every crossroad. Runners, stationed at regular intervals, guided fugitives there. Built on mountains, their white limestone walls could be seen even at night. Gates were never closed or locked. Refuge was not an accident. It was in place before the need arose.
The refuge I found was a package deal. I found Jesus Christ, the living Refuge, Who offered forgiveness and a path to restoration. I found some of His helpers, too. They were in a local church, a place ready for someone like me. They knew about failure, betrayal and disappointment. They had heard those hounds of hell bay, also. Their outreach was unconditional. I didn’t need to qualify. The Lord was there in the arms of kind, loving people who knew and had experienced the Savior I needed. Their generosity opened the doors of my heart, tired and dirty as it was.
I found friends who weren’t quick to make judgments. They helped me knit my story together with understanding and compassion. They lead me to the balm of His Spirit, cleansing and healing the core of me. I grew because I was safe. I learned because my pursuers were locked out, silenced by the same gate that welcomed me.
Does every church extend the arms and heart of Jesus? Maybe not. But if you ask, He’ll lead you to one. Jesus Christ is as close as the cry of your heart. But His people make up a city of refuge available to all in the midst of a perfect storm.