For the last few sessions I’ve been talking about false refuges. To finish up this topic, at least for a while, I’m going to focus on what is probably the most subtle and—perhaps—the most common of all.
Now many people have told me about how life-changing it’s been to discover their false refuges and repent of them. And quite a few have revealed their surprise in discovering how shockingly devious their places of comfort were: substituting prayer to God, for example, for a relationship with God; exchanging the love of God for the God of love. The enemy had done a bait-and-switch on them so cunning that detecting the shift was almost impossible.
But the false refuge I want to discuss today is of a different order. Those of us who have endured suffering of one kind or another, those of us who have been subjected to abuse and got through it—we’re the ones who are particularly prone to setting up a sanctuary for this special idol. And noticing it… well, it’s hard, so unspeakably hard.
I was talking to a counsellor who told me that, in recent times, the people coming to him were all survivors of abuse. There are two things, he said, they always say. First: where was God when I needed Him? And second, I’m not afraid of anyone anymore—when someone tries to torment me now, I know I can get through it because it will end.
Now the first statement, he pointed out, is not a question. It’s an accusation. And the second is a vow that proclaims I’m strong because of the abuse—it’s set me up to get through anything in life. Actually, this is not so, as people find out sooner or later. However, that second statement reveals the existence of a false refuge.
The next morning when I woke up, after this discussion, I realised that the skin rash I’d been experiencing for a few weeks was starting to get better. Half-asleep, I said to myself, ‘This will soon end.’
Instantly I was awake and shot up out of bed. It dawned on me with terrible clarity that my trust wasn’t in God, it was in time. And as I remembered the old stories about Chronos-Time, I realised it is the ultimate abuser, the child-destroyer. The most ancient stories describe Chronos as a three-headed serpent with different faces, reminiscent of Ezekiel’s description of the cherubim.
With a shock, I realised, when it came to suffering, I was complicit with the enemy. I’d put my hope in the passing of Time, rather than the Passover of God. Instead of going by faith into the eternal NOW of the presence of God and sitting with Him as Immanuel, God with us, I’d just waited out the pain.
There are two days in my calendar, said Martin Luther. This day and that Day.
I used this particular day to repent.
This is Grace Drops; I’m Anne Hamilton. May Jesus of Nazareth destroy your idol of time today.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.
No, I haven’t written on Chronos but I have written on some of the other threshold guardians and on false refuges. Understanding false refuges is the single most important step towards dealing with the obstacles barring you from coming into your calling. Hidden in the Cleft explains false refuges in more detail and is available as a paperback or an ebook.