“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” Psalm 61:3
A couple of days ago I had a chance to visit Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Even though I had been there before, the sight of Devils Tower rising from the earth still impressed me. From the pictures shown here some of you may recognize Devils Tower as the formation that was featured in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It has, however, other claims to fame. This park was declared the first national monument in the United States in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. It is also considered a sacred place by many native Americans. Some people come to Devils Tower not to view or photograph it but to climb it.
The monolith known as Devils Tower rises 867 feet from its base and stands 1,267 feet above the river and 5,112 feet above sea level. I’m not sure how this great tower came to be known as “Devils Tower” but I know that seeing it made me think of someone else–the God who made it. Throughout the Scriptures God is often referred to as a “strong tower” or “place of refuge.” Viewing Devils Tower I was reminded how God truly has been “a strong tower” in my life, as well as a place of refuge.
The world we live in is ever-changing and unpredictable. Sometimes we can feel afraid in the midst of life’s constant changes and uncertainties. A lot of people live with anxiety because there doesn’t seem to be anything to hold on to, anything that is constant and unchanging, in our chaotic and turbulent world. I’m not sure there is anything we can hold on to help but I do know that there is Someone we can hold on to. In one of the great hymns we are reminded “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” The contemporary chorus, “Shout to the Lord,” likewise refers to Christ as our “my comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength.”
I truly do give thanks for the stability and security God brings to my life. As strong and mighty as Devils Tower appears to be, it does not begin to compare with the strength and might of the One who made it. Nor does one have to go to Wyoming to find the strong tower and refuge that is God. The Solid Rock is available wherever you are. All you have to do is call out for Him and He is there. That’s His promise, not mine, but I have discovered it is true. I hope you have as well.
In the final chapter of his book, The Gospel According to the Earth, Matthew Sleeth discusses an unpopular subject, sacrifice. In this chapter he makes a couple of allusions to boats. At one point Dr. Sleeth says “Think of the earth as a ship. It is the only earth we have. If we destroy it, we have nowhere else to go. If the ship is sinking, as ours most assuredly is, we must make difficult choices to save it. Choices that involve sacrifice.”
There can be no denying that our planet is in trouble. There are toxins in the air and in the water almost everywhere you look. Our invaluable rain forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, as are many of the wonderful species God intentionally created. There are lots of problems with few easy answers. Some would argue that there are easy answers but what they ignore is that all of these answers require sacrifice. Because they do, they are not easy. As a general rule people today do not like to make sacrifices.
Earlier in the chapter noted above Sleeth says “Everyone believes that ark building is a great idea once it has begun to rain. The trick is beginning an ark six months before the flood. We can begin building our metaphorical ark by accepting God’s truth and living sacrificially.” From some of the things I have read and seen I’m not convinced “everyone” thinks it’s a great idea to build an ark just because it happens to be raining. Countless people these days live in a state of denial. They refuse to believe that our planet, and we along with it, is suffering due to our poor stewardship of God’s Creation. They see no need to do anything even though it has already begun to flood.
How could anyone be so blind? I’m not sure the issue is blindness as much as it is an unwillingness to sacrifice. And behind this unwillingness to sacrifice stands pride or selfishness. A couple of nights ago I came across this sentence in Thomas Merton’s book, No Man Is An Island: “To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.” Too many people today are living on the doorstep of hell. They are living only for themselves. As long as people continue to live this way they will not make the sacrifices necessary to help the earth or to help others.
In his call to discipleship Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew16:24) Sacrifice, denying oneself, lies at the heart of following Jesus. There are many ways we can and should live sacrificial lifestyles. One way involves how we live on and care for the earth. We do not follow in the steps of Christ if we fail to take into consideration how our actions affect the earth and those around us. We do not follow in his steps if we fail to make the sacrifices necessary that will benefit not just us but all those around us and the generations that will follow as well.
May God grant each of us wisdom to know what sacrifices we should be making and the courage to make them.
(The top image was taken at Devil’s Canyon Overlook in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana. The bottom image was taken at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming.)