by Joanie Butman
Despite the fact that my life is no longer dictated by the school calendar, September still marks a new year of sorts. Bible study began this week, and once again the feeling of returning ‘home’ enveloped me as I arrived, eager to greet old friends and meet new ones. More importantly, I was itching to dive into Scripture again as a group, excited to embark on another discovery journey. Who knows what treasures God will reveal this year?
Upon entering I passed a sign that has always intrigued me. It reads, Area of Refuge. I always thought it was pointing toward the sanctuary, but in actuality it’s pointing towards a kitchen. I chuckled because there are plenty of times I’ve sought refuge in the kitchen, seeking solace in a pint of ice cream or a sleeve of Oreos – definitely not a wise choice for my heart or my waistline! That kind of refuge never satisfies the comfort food my soul craves.
Curious, I did some research and discovered that an Area of Refuge is a location in a building designed to hold occupants during a fire or other emergency when evacuation may not be safe or possible. These designated locations provide protection and safety until assistance or rescue is available. That definition is an excellent description of our Bible Study, so it’s no wonder I assumed it was pointing to the sanctuary.
While we come together to study God’s word, one of the benefits is the encouragement and support received in the process. Over my lengthy tenure I’ve been walked, and have walked others, through any life challenge you can name. Our shared troubles connect us with a vulnerable authenticity difficult to achieve these days. You may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but there’s a good reason it’s called ‘Fakebook.’ You’re not going to develop authentic relationships through social media.
As I fell into the welcome embrace of some of the most loving women I know, I thought of the Cheers theme song. There’s certainly nothing Biblical about it, but it does reflect the refuge Community Bible Study provides.
Making your way in the world
today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
There was a time when I did have a bar that provided the camaraderie depicted in Cheers*. In fact, my first husband and I spent so much time there we bought it, but that’s another story for another time. Let me just say, finding Bible study was definitely a wiser choice and a lot less costly personally and financially.
While Community Bible Study is an integral part of my spiritual life, the refuge I need most can only be found in the arms of God. Studying Scripture has definitely helped me find my way there, but it couldn’t have happened without a daily Divine quiet time where I can simply enjoy God’s presence, letting His love and grace saturate my soul, which brings to mind another song. The Dixie Chicks’ Easy Silence, comes close to describing my daily quiet time with God.
And I come to find a refuge in
the easy silence that you make for me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me.
And the way you keep the world at bay for me,
the way you keep the world at bay for me.
Where and with whom do you choose to find refuge? Choose wisely.
*Cheers is an American sitcom that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize.