The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
The palo verde tree is the kitchen of our backyard; it’s the gathering place. Everyone gravitates toward it for shelter, community, and nourishment. Spiritual nourishment is the goal, but typically, a cereal bowl (or two) wind up attracting ants. Highly spiritual. Camping chairs straddle the tree’s meandering roots, dodging ground squirrel sinkholes. We aren’t fancy people with actual patio furniture. Swings grace two sturdy limbs. Bicycles topple like dominoes. Goats nibble as far as their lips can possibly stretch, and boy howdy can they stretch. And here I sit, idly taking it all in from the shade of its vast branches. We can call it, “relaxed parenting,” but I remain seated not because of any parenting ideals. I just don’t want to lecture someone while the sun is dehydrating me with each passing second. It’s hotter than blazes, my friends, and I don't drink enough electrolytes for that nonsense. I’d much rather pop a question off from my chair than follow the offender to a place in the heat. I call this, “parenting smarter, not harder.”
Heard often from me as someone starts off on an expedition is the phrase, “eyes and ears.” In the desert we have all manner of exciting surprises. It’s the world’s worst jack-in-the-box. “All around the creosote bush the rabbit chased the lizard...dadun-dadun-danununudun…POP goes a rattle snake!” Whee! Fun times. Eyes. And. Ears.
Another common phrase uttered to the toddler is, “Stay in the shadow of the tree.” In the mornings, the shadows stretch across night-cooled sand. The aforementioned toddler prefers to explore sans shoes, running heedless of danger. The shadow of the tree falls on level ground with no obstructions to my view. It’s her designated zone of relative safety. Some days she’s content to abide within the boundary. Other days, the reminders roll out like red carpet for the queen. On one such red-carpet day, she bounded over to me with the assurance, “Don’t worry, Mama. I’m going to stay in the shadow of the tree.” There was something strikingly whimsical about hearing those words from her mouth. That's when the impact skittered across my mind. Like a skipping stone, the truth rippled.
Stay in My shadow, beloved.
My toes stray to the edge, the fiery heat glowing at my soles…or maybe soul…? Abiding in the shadow of the Most High chafes against my sinful pride. My flesh seeks that which is outside His dwelling. Yet, His is not a darkened shadow; on the contrary, His shadow is ironically indwelt by the Father of lights, filled with every generous act and perfect gift (James 1:17).
The clock ticks and the shadows shorten. The toddler’s shadowy bounds are ever-changing, and there’s absolutely nothing to deter danger from breaching its borders (well, except perhaps the dull roar of children). Not so with Him in Whom there is no variation. His shadow is always and irrevocably anchored. To abide in Him is to be held with steadfast love. Love for you. He becomes your eyes and ears. And ain't nothin' breaching that.