Thursday, February 02, 2017

Sanctuary People

Driving through the arid, wide open spaces between Montrose and Grand Junction, Western Colorado can appear to be pretty desolate.  The landscape stretches out before you with nary a tree in sight, offering little in the form of shelter for wildlife.  Your eyes eventually begin to thirst for anything verdant, anything green.  The ground is layered as you look off into the distance, with plateaus forming table tops that have no place settings to welcome anyone.

Just as you think this might be what the next several hours are going to look like, you round the curved highway that snakes next to a rocky outcropping and drops you into Delta, Colorado.  Suddenly, irrigation has transformed the high mountain desert into an oasis.  Lifting your head to see beyond the little valley, there before you is the most magnificent and majestic snow capped mountain range beckoning you spanning your entire windshield. It is far off in the distance, but it slakes your soul's thirst like nothing else. 

After twenty years of residing here, I still feel filled up when my adopted hometown comes within view.  Being born and raised in Southern California, where wide open spaces are few and far between and everywhere you look there are wall to wall cars, billboards screaming at you, and smog hovering over it all, I had no idea how something inside me yearned for space, for vistas, for connection, for home.

From the very first moments we drove into town, Montrose has been my "Holy Place".  It saved me, it wrapped itself around me with its warm and welcoming people, its small town country charm, and its authenticity.  There is little "Keeping up with the Jones' " around here where most everyone is simply doing their best to raise their families, keep their heads financially above water, and live life on their terms.

It was on this very drive last week when I was paid the highest compliment I have ever received as a mom.  

The minivan was full, and chatter ensued as always.  Conversation turned toward the ways in which we find peace, and I spoke of that feeling I had the very first time I crossed the desert to arrive in Montrose twenty years ago, how it felt that I had come home for the first time, and that God made it clear there was something awaiting me in this new land.  

Kenny, sitting beside me in the co-pilot seat, got quiet, and then began to speak quietly.  

"I know what that feels like, Mom.  Sometimes, when my brain is so scrambled and I can't figure anything out at all, you are my place of peace.  I think people can be a sanctuary for others, and I see you being that for a lot of people, but especially for me."

"Oh, really, Kenny?  What a sweet thing for you to say! I am glad you feel that way.  I can see why you might feel that way, I am not sure others do, though," I responded.

Then, from the back seat I also hear from Matthew a surprising statement, "Kenny's right, you are my sanctuary, too, Mom."

Fighting back the tears, I didn't even know what to say.  What does one say to something like that?  

You parent through so much, and we have all been through a heck of a lot together.  You discipline, you nurture, you beg and plead about cleaning up dirty rooms, you step on the ten thousandth Lego, you watch them grow, you talk late into the night, you listen to fears and dreams, you play taxi driver 5, 6 or 7 times a day.  You just do your Mom Thing, being there teaching, loving, nagging, growing right alongside them.  The world doesn't see you nor hold you in high esteem, you are "just" a homeschooling mom, you have no career to claim, no worldly success to point to, and some days you wonder if your existence matters much at all.

Then your teenage sons proclaim without hesitation that you are their sanctuary.

Suddenly, you view the past 17 years through a different lens.  It all matters, every single moment spent in role modeling, in deep conversation, in nudging, in watching silently waiting for just the right moment to bring something up, it all matters.  You create a home as best you can, fill it with love and hope, faith and light, all with the heartfelt desire that your kids will fondly recall that their childhood home was a sanctuary from the world, a place to hide from the storms of life, a place that embraces them and felt safe.

We don't often think of people as sanctuaries, and yet we have all had them.  For the blessed ones, it was their parents, for those less fortunate, it was those who came along and filled in the holes, stepping in to offer sacred places for our hearts to be held.

You know something?  You are a sanctuary for someone, too.  We all are.  Now, maybe your kids would never use language like that, but it doesn't mean you aren't really that place of refuge for them.  Maybe you've never had children, but you've regularly offered yourself to friends and they seek you out to lay their burdens down for just a little while.

Right now, as talk of "Sanctuary Cities" and "Sanctuary Campuses" fills our Facebook feeds and news web sites, I can't help but wonder if what we really need is not a "safe place", but for each of us to step up and be Sanctuary People for others.  I can see the value in creating safe locations for people in a time of such great turmoil, but where it really starts is individually with you and with me.  What the world needs this very moment is to move beyond symbolic gestures; we need every single one of us to hold one another tenderly, to care for one another as brothers and sisters, and to move beyond the "otherizing", name calling, and finger pointing.

Yes, what we need is to be Sanctuary People for those whose paths we cross...not just those we know and already care about, but the stranger in our midst, the ones we might not find as likable, the ones who disagree with us.  Man, is that hard!

We also need to be especially kind with those closest with us, our loved ones and friends we hold dear.  As the world screams at us from frantic headlines about the antics of politicians on left and right, as fears escalate, we need to be gentle with our language, we need to be careful where and how we spill it out, we need to be respectful and thoughtful in our interactions, realizing that though we may need a sanctuary, the person across from one may be in desperate need as well.  We need to respond to anger with calm, we need to stop expecting everyone to view the world the way we do, or to be in the emotional place we are.  We don't need to be the ones to intensify emotions, that is being done enough through our media.

I will likely never forget that afternoon, the one when my sons equated me with being their sacred place.  If that is all I have been able to accomplish in this world, to provide a deep sense of security and to offer myself as a haven for our cherished children, than I doubt there is anything else I could ever accomplish that would measure up to that.

1 comment:

Madon said...

Once again, why I love your writing, your way of saying what we need to hear. Bless you, my dear friend.