Sometimes I like to think of myself as a refuge for my kids, a safe place they can run to from the storm of the world. I can hold them while they cry for friends back in Africa, or back in Minnesota, depending. I can kiss skinned knees and pray when the words of bullies sting. I hold the soothing power of band-aids and hot chocolate and tickles at the tips of fingers.
But I am not, ultimately, the safe place they need.
Sometimes it is also easy to seek refuge in my kids, a safe place where I can find hope and meaning and love. They snuggle in the crook of my neck, warm and damp after a bath, and I think everything is right in the world. They run to me so I will be the first to hear their victory story and I know I matter. They say, “Mommy, I wish I could cut off your arm and carry it with me so we would always be together,” and I know I am loved.
But they are not, ultimately, the safe place I need.
My failure to be their refuge was evident from the beginning. I remember one particular, early, dark day. I was a twenty-two-year-old mother of infant twins. They were screaming and stinky and hungry and tired. I was screaming and stinky and hungry and tired. I couldn’t make them do what I wanted. I was angry, and struggling under a cloud of postpartum darkness. I found myself behind the firmly locked window of our 22nd floor apartment in downtown Minneapolis looking down, down, down. A thought, a fleeting split-second and wicked thought jagged like lightning across the storm in my mind. What if . . . (I wish I could write these words in a whisper) . . . what if I tossed them out?
By grace, I would never have acted on this impulse, but the thought itself, the epitome of selfish rage against my own children, haunts like a shadow, a thundercloud. It is a vivid reminder; in that moment I was not the eye of the storm, the refuge. I was the storm.
And eleven years later, I continue to occasionally be a storm for my children in other, non-window-related ways. Unfortunately, a solid night’s sleep, an uninterrupted shower, and the ability to sit down for an entire meal without wiping mouths or spilled milk hasn’t eliminated my sinful tendency toward storming.
The only place where I can find hope in my struggles with sin, and the only true refuge for my children, the eye of their storm, is the cross.
“The cross is the one safe place for sinners because the wrath of God fell there once and it will never fall there again” (Jason Meyer, sermon).
When I see the raging winds of anger, my failures as a mother, and my idolizing efforts turn my children into a refuge, there is only one thing to do. Run. Flee to the cross.
When I see the sin in my kids, their failures, there is only one place to send them. Run, Henry and Maggie! Hurry Lucy! Flee to the cross!
May my voice urge them on, my hands pull them forward as we run together. Faster, faster, hurry to the refuge of the cross. It is there and only there, bursting through the curtain torn in two, that we will discover the heart of God.
Here, with my children, I find peace while all around the storm rages, sin tempts, terror reigns. Here at the cross is quietness and confidence, joy and forgiveness. Here, at the cross, with the centurion who recognized in Jesus’ dying breath the victory he purchased, is our final and ultimate safe refuge.