The words “shelter in place” fell into my thoughts this morning and I knew immediately what they meant. Not what we have come to know them to mean as we have heard them way too often the past few years. But what they meant to me in the moment. What they meant for me and for you, if you are struggling with fear and anxiety, which is certainly on the rise within our country, and our world.
With everything from natural disasters to pandemics to mass shootings to wars, the words “shelter in place” tend to stir up anxiety more than bring peace. They cause a sudden awareness of whatever danger might be present, rather than causing a sense of peace in knowing we are sheltered. Even Merriam Webster’s online dictionary confirms that by saying the phrase “shelter in place” means “instructing or requiring people to remain in their current location until a danger has passed.” No wonder it stirs up fear and anxiety. The message is, “Don’t move! The danger is here.”
It’s true there is an uncertainty we all live in that has to do with not knowing what the next year will bring. Job security. Home security. Relational security. Health security. Food security. Where do we find security? Pondering these things, I went back to the words that fell in my thoughts. Shelter in place.
Think about the word shelter. The very word is a word of peace. Shelter. It means to protect from danger, to place under cover, or to find a refuge. Shelter in place. When looking up all the different meanings and considering the words literally, I was left with a definition filled with peace, contrary to the definition above. I found that to shelter in place very literally means to protect yourself and others from danger or trouble by staying in a place of safety, relief, or escape.
Did you catch that? PROTECT yourself. Protect. Not hide. There is a profound difference. And STAY in a place of safety, don’t just remain until the danger is passed. Live there. Abide there. In that place of protection, you can bring others in to be safe, to find relief, and to escape the trouble as well. So how do we do that? I am reminded of a dream I had that holds nuggets of truth worth more than any amount of gold.
Several years ago, I had a dream that felt like I was in Scotland. Although I have never been, in the dream it seemed certain that is where I was. I was running up a lush grassy knoll, wind in my hair, sun shining, and as I reached the top of the knoll there was a huge fortress. It was incredibly tall and ancient and beautiful. Its magnificence took my breath away. I decided to run into it, and as I entered, I noticed the massive stone walls. Solid. Strong. Sure to defend. Taking in the sense of safety and security I felt standing there, the fortress began to change shape slowly from the outside. Even though I was within the fortress, I could see the form shifting on the outside and even though the size and height never changed, it began to take the shape of an enormous man. I recognized the man to be Jesus, and cried out, “It’s Jesus! I am inside of Jesus!” And I awoke, aware more than ever that the sense of safety and security I felt came from my position in Him.
In Jesus. Suddenly scriptures I had heard all my life took on a new meaning. Like…
- In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith… Galatians 3:26
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… Ephesians 1:3
- We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works… Ephesians 2:10
I read these verses, and more, from a newly strengthened place of faith that imagined being inside a massive fortress that was Jesus Himself. Faith stretches us beyond our mental boundaries. If we could fathom it, we wouldn’t need faith. But when we let our faith expand to unknown boundaries, we grow and have capacity for more faith in the next situation. I let that dream do that for me. I am letting it do that for me in this year of incredible uncertainty, too.
Remember that “shelter in place” literally means to protect yourself and others from danger or trouble by staying in a place of safety, relief, or escape. Can you picture being “in” Jesus? Like I was in my dream? In a mighty, ancient, strong, and secure fortress that is Him? Can you sense the strength and security surrounding you? Do you feel the safety in being His child? Can you imagine having every single spiritual blessing in the heavenly places given to you? Can you even fathom what kind of benefits that looks like? They are all within the walls of that fortress and they are there for you to use as needed. It is all too big, too grand, too amazing for my human limitations. My human brain says, “Yes, but…” and lists all the unsafe circumstances that abound. But my human spirit, filled with faith, says I don’t have to understand to believe. I don’t even have to have safe circumstances to be safe.
I believe He is surrounding me. I believe He has good works planned for me. I believe He has given EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places to me. I believe. I believe. I believe. And I believe you can have that, too.
Where you put your focus determines what you see. Shelter in place in Him. That’s not a “hunker down and hang on” kind of shelter. That’s a shelter that knows it is the strongest force in the universe and it’s got me wrapped up in Him. So, whatever comes, it may not look like I want or imagine, but I will be alright. So, I focus on that. I see that. Do you know that, too?
We were created to be the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14) Staying in that fortress of His presence brightens our light. He IS our shelter in place.
Do you know this, or are you struggling with fears that grip your mind and weigh you down? I pray that as you ask for His presence, He makes Himself so real to you that everything else falls away. Only the uplifting remains. That’s my prayer for you today, and tomorrow, and next year, and forever. Shelter in place. Run in. Stay there. Abide. And please reach out if you need to talk or pray.
Brenda Harkins is an author, speaker, and professional coach specializing in personal, relational and leadership transformation. Brenda believes in impossible possibilities, the joy of family, west Texas sunsets, good coffee, good friends, and the power of God’s love. Not necessarily in that order. Brenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and would love to hear from you.