Shadows, Shelter, and Shade
Maybe it’s the rain, or lack of commerce, or the commitment to stay weird; whatever the reason in Oregon we do three things. We drink, we festival, and we educate. Our drinking is never just drinking, however. We wine walk, beerfest, and celebrate the beloved hop. We don’t settle for your run of the mill Scandinavian festivals, either. We devote entire weekends to fungus at the Mushroom festival, celebrate the seaward at the Fisherman’s poetry festival, watch the skies at the Migrating Bird Festival, walk proud in the Bloomer Festival, pretend to be cool at the Hemp Festival, and appreciate man’s best friend (the sheep) at the Flock and Fiber Festival. Most importantly, we don’t leave education to the classroom. We make education fun.
Like this past weekend when the local pool, having been drained from the previous weekend’s dog party, was refilled and stocked with rainbow trout. For $10 children of all ages could enter the fishing derby. Always a sucker for things that sound cool, I registered my son. At 10 am TJ arrived, was put in group 2, and sent to the knot tying table where a limber fingered man in khaki got overly excited about the possibilities of fishing line. From there he moved to the lap pool where hula hoops floated randomly and long fishing pools lined the side. Another gentleman, in a slightly different shade of ecru, paced the pool deck obsessing over the importance of safe casting so that no one got a hook to the eye. Only to hand the kids hookless poles with rubber fish on the end. My son managed to swing his fish into the hula hoop (and into the skull of his best friend) a couple of times before being cleared to “go fish.”
Anxious, he hustled to the lazy river; a two foot wide circle of water with a slow-moving current where dozens of silver trout huddled in small schools. “This will be easy,” my son exclaimed, showing no remorse has he ended the life of an innocent worm. Casting was not allowed in the lazy river, just a slow drop of the line. TJ dropped anchor, sat, waiting, taunting the fish with a combination of power bait and worm parts. All around him, fishing poles doubled over as flailing fish were pulled out of the indigo water. His pole remained still. The fish circled his line, visible and yet elusive. For two hours TJ sat.
Finally a merciful volunteer in camouflage sauntered over with a net.
As TJ took his fish to be gutted and cooked by the local culinary school, I hung back. The volunteer explained away the lack of biting by telling me that the fish were scared. “Everyone is too close to the edge,” he said, “the shadows looming over the water let the fish know that something is there. They aren’t as stupid as you think.”
I am often like the fish. I see the shadows, sense the shade and sit idle in fear. Only for me it is not wisdom.
Christians talk often of God being the light. It is a brilliant picture; one that paints God in warm colors. God IS light; a light that brings sight to those who are blind, a light that brings hope to those who sit in darkness, a light guiding home those who are lost, a light that brings courage to those who are afraid. Still where there is light, there are shadows and shade cast by that light.
God says that He, too, is the shadow. He calls Himself the shade at our right hand, provided Himself as a cloud to cover the Israelites, bodes us to hide in the shadow of His wings. When Jonah sat bitter and scorched, God brought shade. God is often most present in the darkness.
Like the fish, I fear the shadows. They seem polar opposite of the place where the light shines. But if God is in the Shadows, my fear is in vain. If God is there, the shadows are a place of refuge. In the shadows, away from the light, is peace for what I cannot understand. In the shade where the light shines not, I find rest from my travels. Under his wings, where a faint darkness is cast, I find shelter from the things that stir my anxieties. And I, as a follower of Christ who claims to bear the light in me, ought also to cast shadows. My life ought to provide a place of refuges where others can find rest for their souls.
For you now, if you settle in a place where the shadows loom, do not sit idle in fear. Just rest, knowing that God is there . . . and the time for Festivals will come.