Footprints daily reflection: 10 April
Refuge from the Tempest.
Author: Julia Zahra McKinley
O that I had the wings of a dove,
I would fly away and find rest… I would lodge in the wilderness… and find a refuge
from the sweeping wind and the tempest
These verses from Psalm 55 immediately evoke a number of associations. My mind is first brought to Jonah, whose very name, Yonah, means ‘dove’, and yet he finds himself in the watery cavern of a fish’s stomach at the bottom of the sea. The other place my mind travels to when I read these verses, is the myriads of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, (where Jonah found himself no less), for whom the sweeping wind and tempest is a harsh reality. A ‘tempest’ could also be thought of as a turbulent inner storm we are facing, where we might feel rocked back and forth and unsure of what is coming next.
The Psalmist was no stranger to pain. We sometimes think a life of faith must be clean and shiny, and yet the biblical texts show us time and time again that it is not quite so. In fact, it is into those waters of chaos that God’s Spirit hovered and moved as a new beginning, the Beginning of all Beginnings, was about to be birthed. Sometimes the waters of chaos, the inky depths of ‘horror’ as the Psalmist describes, can be a place of surrender where the Spirit of God can move afresh and create something new.
Is there anything in these verses which can offer some comfort and direction today, some clue as to what the Psalmist is searching for? Something that might resonate with our own inner tempest and search for refuge?
The word ‘wilderness’ where rest is found in the above verse, is the word midbar in Hebrew. This noun, fascinatingly, comes from the verb ‘to speak’. When we start to put the pieces together, we can see multiple times in Scripture where God ‘speaks’ in the wilderness - Moses, Elijah, Jesus. A wilderness can be a place to learn or re-learn how to hear God’s voice, above the wind and the tempest. Perhaps God’s voice itself becomes a place of refuge, as we learn to tune in to sacred sounds and rhythms.
Living God of connection,
the One who mingles dust and sacred breath to bring forth life,
let us this day find a place, a midbar, where we might rest from whatever tempest we are facing.
Whether it is upon the waves of an unfamiliar sea in search of hope,
or whether from the tempest that rages within, let us find a refuge,
where we can begin to hear Your voice again.
In Your Name we pray.
Julia Zahra McKinley is the recently appointed Development Officer for the National Bible Society of Ireland, a role which primarily involves collaborating with other biblically-based organisations, partnering with the Northern Irish Bible Society on all-Ireland projects, and facilitating group engagement with Scripture at local levels and national levels.