A Sanctuary is a sacred place. Its a place of worship and awe, even hushed and holy silence. As you think about a holy Sanctuary, surely there is some image in your mind. My mind has two. One is the chapel at Taylor University. Its a tiny little building on campus with simple wooden pews and stained glass windows. I have no idea what pictures they hold, because most of the time that I spent in that Sanctuary I was on my knees with my head buried in my arms, weeping and praying desperately. I was O so rebellious and confused during my time at Taylor, not because of anything lacking at the school, but because of something deep and aching lacking in me. The Holy Spirit (Espiritu Sanctu in Latin) would not leave me alone with my angry heart, so I would often take myself to the Sanctuary to pour it out, a bitter but honest offering, like draining a wound. To this day, those raw and messy moments with the Lord remain some of the most precious in my life. I unknowingly and unintentionally allowed Him to create in me a deep and abiding trust. He became, as Hagar discovered in her own running away, The God Who Sees Me. That place and the truth it represents is one of my Sanctuaries.
The other image I have of sacred Sanctuary is, tritely enough, York cathedral. When Scott and I had been married just a few months, I went with him for the first time to northern England. We spent our afternoon in York exploring the gothic cathedral. I was unfamiliar with the grandeur and formality of ancient European spirituality at the time, so I was dazzled. The detail, the symbolism, the feat of engineering for medieval builders, the sheer soaring size of space and stone, all of it felt like a heavy weight of worship. In the spiritual climate of United Kingdom, of course, the cathedral has become a cultural relic, not a place of devotion to God, but not to me. I felt what Paul calls “the weight of glory” in that place. Cathedrals are designed to be heady, dizzying, to draw your eyes and your notice up to heaven. It succeeded. Not once did I think about myself and my humanity; I spent the whole afternoon quietly, looking up, thinking about God, joyful and solemn both. I remember York cathedral as a place of holy silence and spiritual reflection.
Not only is Sanctuary a holy place, it is also a safe place. In 2002 a group of Palestinian refugees hid away in the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem for five weeks. They claimed Sanctuary. Israeli troops surrounded the church but were unwilling to enter with violent purpose. There was no law saying that the troops had to honor the refugees’ claim. The enmity between the two sides of that conflict is deep and undisputed. But the troops allowed those refugees safety because there is something in our hearts that recognizes that some places should be safe, inviolable, no matter what the provocation. I think the Church of the Nativity, the very spot where Jesus was reported to have been born, is such a place, such a Sanctuary.
I am naming my blog In Search of Sanctuary because my vision is that it will be a lasting record of my experiences in my own protected Holy of Holies, my own safe and holy Sanctuary with the Lord.
I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise you as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. Ps.63:2-3