WHEN my daughter was quite small she would put together an elaborate arrangement of chairs, stools, and blankets right in the middle of our busy living room. It was her sanctuary in the midst of the family's activity. Have you ever wished you could do the same thing? I know I have!
I've discovered that all of us do have a sanctuary that offers respite and protection, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. It's the place we find in our own individual relationship to God--the best sanctuary we could ever have. The Bible speaks often about this sanctuary. In the ninety-first Psalm, for example, we read: ``He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." The remainder of this psalm describes in comforting, beautiful language
the safety and peace that are found in God.
And God is the source of our very existence, so it stands to reason that He also gives us a sure sanctuary when we need it. But, of course, we're more apt to seek and to find immediate refuge in God when we know and understand just who He is and why He is our sanctuary. Finding refuge follows naturally from loving and knowing God. Why, then, would we ever ignore God and His loving presence in our lives? Don't we sometimes feel we're too busy? Or maybe we're feeling self-sufficient and think we have no ne ed for Him now? Some reject God outright. And others are afraid of what thinking of God might require of them. That, in a way, was Jonah's case.
The book of Jonah, in the Old Testament, tells us his story. God had told Jonah to go to a city--Nineveh--to awaken the inhabitants from their wickedness. Jonah ran from what God wanted him to do by taking passage on a ship headed in the opposite direction. But a wild storm engulfed the ship, and the crew threw Jonah overboard to save themselves. Instead of drowning, however, Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish. The fish actually provided Jonah with a sanctuary from the sea until he accepted wholehearted ly what God had asked him to do. It then deposited Jonah on land and he went on to obey God, having found what he needed in this most unlikely sanctuary.
Mary Baker Eddy, the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, writes of God as infinite Spirit. He is never material or limited. This means that God is in all places, at all times. So the spiritual sanctuary waiting for us is always available because of the nature of God as infinite Spirit. When we recognize that our sanctuary is spiritual, however, we can't logically continue to think of ourselves as a material, mortal person trying, somehow, to find sanctuary in Spirit. We begin to disc ern what has always been true of us: God creates man--but He makes man spiritual, not material, since He Himself is Spirit. Man's individuality and identity are in Spirit, not in matter or mortality. We can learn to cherish this fact about our real selfhood.
Christ Jesus, the Way-shower for mankind, had a God-appointed mission. And the Bible indicates that Jesus often took refuge in prayer. His times of prayer were times when he found sanctuary with God. Mrs. Eddy writes of him in a book called No and Yes: ``Hence the human Jesus had a resort to his higher self and relation to the Father, and there could find rest from unreal trials in the conscious reality and royalty of his being,--holding the mortal as unreal and the divine as real. It was this retreat fr om material to spiritual selfhood which recuperated him for triumph over sin, sickness, and death."
Our spiritual sanctuary, too, isn't a special place as much as it is a recognition that God, Spirit, is always present.