Just off the main highway that winds through the rolling green hills is a dirt road. You would miss it if you didn’t know to watch for it.
On the south side of the road, a small, weathered sign in the shape of a T has the words “Sanctuary” on it. That’s where you turn in.
You’ll drive a good half a mile on that rough dirt road that turns and twists slowly up a hill. The trees crowd on either side and the sunlight is filtered through the leaves as you travel along. If your windows are open, the air is riotous with the sound of songbirds.
Then, suddenly, you are at the top of the hill and there you will see your destination. There stand several buildings made of the creamy field stone the area is known for. The structures look so solid that no wind could ever blow them down. The prettiest of them all, overlooking the lush valley down below, is a chapel building with a small steeple and bell tower. There are flower beds along the brick walkway, and in summer they are alive with color.
At evensong, when the sun begins to sink, the bells in that chapel can be heard for miles. There is a carillon that each evening chimes sweet peace to all of God’s creatures. Whether it is heard by the sheep dog resting on the porch of the frame farmhouse down the road or the family eating dinner in the valley, the sounds of those bells are carried on the gentle evening air.
A woman named Joan runs the place. She is a woman in her early 60’s, vigorous, with rough hands that are chapped with constant work. Her silver hair is short, because she has no interest or time to deal with it, her skin is tanned and shows the effects of much sun, but she has light blue eyes that are kindly and they nearly always have a smile in them.
There is a library in one of those stone buildings. A carpenter volunteered and put in shelves from ceiling to floor. Over the years, the book collection burgeoned and grew until Joan had to stop taking donations. The large fireplace, made of the same stone, was put in later. On cold winter nights, the library is as snug a haven as you could possibly find. Joan’s yellow lab likes to lie there on the rug before the fire, toasting himself, the firelight flickering on the backs of the books.
The hills that shimmer in the summer heat are still with the silence and cold of winter. A different, frozen kind of peace descends. Footsteps and sounds seem muffled as the snow and ice blanket the beauty that lies in waiting.
Joan was once terribly hurt in her life. She was so hurt that she nearly gave up, turned her back on her faith and died for any useful purpose.
Then she inherited money and bought an old property up in the hills. Aroused from despair and defeat, throwing off her depression and her sense of worthlessness, she determined to provide a haven in the war zone of life for women who needed a sanctuary.
She made up her mind that she would never market her safe place. God would bring those who needed a rest, and she would provide it. And one by one, injured sheep make their way to her refuge. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they have to crawl.
She does not preach to them. But she prays for all who come. She offers her ear, her experience and plain comfort from the Bible.
Most of those who come are refugees from spiritual abuse. Like Joan. Sitting in her study, she listens to stories that are enough to make the angels weep. She sees the damage and the scars carried by those who have been nearly killed off by spiritual leaders, husbands, family members wielding the name of Jesus. Some are those suffering great loss or from long term, unresolved stress in their lives and who are nearly unable to function in their everyday lives as a result. They open their hearts in this safe place, sometimes for the first time.
And there, those same hurt people are given the opportunity to rest. It flows to them from the Scriptures and hymns at evensong, it shines down from the glories of God’s creation, where the billions of stars are not obscured by harsh city lights, it comes to them sitting on the swing where the small creatures can be heard rustling in the grass as they go about their nightly affairs.
Rest comes in the quiet of rooms, where in their plainness and simplicity, the Bibles on the nightstand can be opened without distraction, and prayer can take place without the oppression of digital noise that permeates everyday life.
Rest comes in healthy meals and walking in the hills, the sunshine warming backs and necks made stiff with stress. It comes in not having a schedule screaming its demands and all the expectations rising, exhausting and depleting.
Sometimes visitors stay a day. Others stay for weeks. When they leave, they give a donation of what they can or sometimes they donate their time to help work on the property in exchange for the kindness of their host.
There is a plaque in the narthex of the chapel, just to the left of the door.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” ~ Jesus
The need for peaceful interludes in our lives can’t be underscored enough. Our modern life has many running on fumes. For those facing truly devastating losses and long-term struggles, time away from it all isn’t just a want, it is a need. The place I have described above is fictional, part of a fun writing project. I thought I would share it on the Hope Blog because it describes what so many women today would love to have–time away to find quiet and peace.
We may not be able to get away, and there may be no place like the Sanctuary in real life where we can physically get strength and perspective back, but all of us can cultivate a sanctuary in our hearts, a place where we won’t let anything or anyone disrupt the peace of God. The evil of our day wars against this peace. It is a real commitment to keep hearts and minds fixed on truth, on the real Jesus, not the brutal counterfeit offered up so often today in His name.
I love this piece by Secret Garden.