Shade for our Souls

The hot tropical sun baked every pore of my exposed skin. How thankful I was to my Vietnamese daughter-in-law’s family for their insistence that I wear some kind of long sleeves.  
Six years ago I was in Vietnam, riding past the rice paddies on my first motorbike excursion. The young nephew who had been assigned to drive while I held on (not too tightly, I hoped) behind him, was very gracious to this American Grandma.

How much hotter could it get, I wondered? The day already felt like I was in a sauna, and I had thought the breeze of the driving might be refreshing. Obviously I had never experienced this kind of baking sun, exposed in the open landscape! I longed for some kind of relief from the fiery heat, as we rode.  And it was then that the verse from my morning’s reading became more real to me than it had ever been:
“The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.”
Psalm 121:5-6 

I spoke the verse again and again, until I felt the very Presence of God covering me with His safety, speaking to my burning soul that He would be my true shade.

Is there a place of safety from the burning heat, from the searing of our souls,
that we are meant to share?

We find our friend, Jayber Crow, in such a place for this week’s portion over at Michele Morin’s site

Living Our Days,

where she has invited us to join in an online book study of Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry.

Jayber, the “bachelor barber,” has begun to see himself as a true member of the community, when World War 2 sets in. Having been denied a place of service himself, because of a medical difficulty, he yet found himself saying:

“I was learning what I had meant when I decided that I would share the fate of Port William. I had not gone off to war, but the wounds and deaths of Port William boys were happening in Port William. They were happening to me. I was involved; I was being changed.”

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 147). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 

Jayber had begun to experience what a true community feels like: what one person walks through does overflow onto the others within that community. 

As Jayber became more comfortable in his own shop, there were many nights after business was completed, that he lingered in his own barber chair (how cozy that must have been, in the days before our nice “Lazy-Boy” recliners!) finding it a comfortable spot for reading and relaxing. Often times if another lone soul was out wandering the streets, they might find themselves drawn to the cozy feeling of the empty barbershop themselves, knowing that a listening ear was waiting for them there.

In those awful years of the War, when the searing hot pain of grief became overwhelming, one father wandered in and just sat quietly. From within that peaceful setting, he shared about a dream of his lost son that had awakened a fresh pouring of grief:

 “He told me this in a voice as steady and even as if it were only another day’s news, and then he said, ‘All I could do was hug him and cry.’ And then I could no longer sit in that tall chair. I had to come down. I came down and went over and sat beside Mat. If he had cried, I would have. We both could have, but we didn’t. We sat together for a long time and said not a word. After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at last and lie down.”

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 149-150). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

And the tears that could not be shed by them, were shed by me. This “Shade of God’s Presence” is the one constant thing we can offer to those who dwell in community with us. We may not always have a wise word. We might not even be able to serve or help in the way that we wish we could.

But our Lord
Who offers us the True Shade
Of His Presence

Asks us to extend that Shade
To invite others in
Who are burning
in pain and grief.

We can sit with each other
And know
That our restless souls
Only find rest in HIM.

I have found such shade and safety
with ones who have
sat with me.
If there is a burning in your soul,
please let me pray with you,
and join you 
in your own place of pain.
The Community of our Lord,
The Body of Christ,
has a beautiful shade
that is meant to be shared.

 Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, can be found at Amazon,
by clicking here.

I am linking today with:
Suzie Eller, #LiveFreeThursday 
Barbie Swihart, #Glimpses 

16 thoughts on “Shade for our Souls

  1. Dear Bettie, this is so beautiful! And Audrey's voice is perfect. Thanks so much for sharing. I love how our thoughts were similar about sitting and resting together and in God. Blessings to you, dear sister, with love and hugs! xoxo


  2. Oh, my! This brings back memories of a very brief motorcycle ride I “enjoyed” with my oldest son. I'm afraid I spent the entire ride in a tucked position, waiting for glory.

    I really enjoy Jayber's enjoyment of his little space — and his chair. Later in the book, when he moves outside the town limits, he takes his chair with him. :=)

    I find that Jayber has it just right when he comes into his role as counselor/listener. He didn't try to cheer Mat up or diminish his feeling by putting a pretty ribbon on them or mouthing a platitude. He listened and felt the grief along with him. That dream Mat had about his boy was so jarring to read about. God is, indeed, merciful.

    And thanks, Bettie, for this beautiful meditation on three very poignant chapters.


  3. Dear Gayl,
    Yes, isn't that such a lovely song by Audrey Assad? It was one of the songs that blessed me so much during my stay in Vietnam. He is so good to confirm His thoughts to us, and to let us know that He wants us to rest with Him! Thank you for your kindred heart, my friend! Love and Hugs! xoxo


  4. Dear Michele,
    What fun memories! I tried so hard not to hold on too tightly, when all I felt like doing was to hold on for dear life! I love your description of your ride!

    I can imagine that Jayber's chair became a prized possession–not only for it's comfort, but also for all of the memories attached to it too! I like those words of a “counselor/listener” that you gave to him. Jayber did possess those gifts in a large way. And now that I'm reading ahead into the next few chapters, it's becoming even more evident! Thank you for hosting, again, and giving us all such a great foundation from which to launch our own thoughts! Blessings to you, my friend!


  5. What a touching story, Bettie! I love how God used the barber to help others through their grief. This reminds me of another story that impacted me – A little boy went to his neighbor who had recently lost his wife. He didn't say a word. He just sat with him and cried with him. I think sometimes we think we need to say something, but we really don't, do we? I love the song, too. May we rest in Him!


  6. Dear Trudy,
    Oh thank you for sharing that beautiful story! What a compassionate heart that little boy must have carried! And, yes, you are right that sometimes we just need to sit and be with each other. I'm praying for rest for you this weekend also, my friend! Blessings, Love & Hugs!


  7. Dear Bettie, there is something so beautiful and profound about how the Body of Christ is knit together intrinsically, sharing joys and sorrows, leaning on and supporting one another in love. This thought strikes home to me with fresh poignancy today as our church community mourn the loss of our beloved Pastor and gather for his memorial service.
    Being shade and shelter for each other is how we mirror God's love, mercy, grace and compassion toward us. The lovely song you have chosen beautifully highlights our restlessness, our great need for the rest and peace of body and soul that only God can give us. Sitting in the ashes with one another, often silently and lost for words, is a grace gift beyond words. Thank you for the sheltering oasis your own sweet and gentle presence, experienced here, is for so many. God bless you, my friend. Love and hugs. xoxo


  8. This is beautifu,l Bettie! I am reminded of friends who rallied around in my own season of raw grief, friends told stories and we all laughed, because Roma made us all laugh and laughter was appropriate and even required when remembering that boy. I have become bolder in coming alongside others on this inevitable journey of grief, and in the isolated moments of pure joy. He made us for community. He made us to be shelter for others, shade from the heat. Also mirrors for the joy when the dim glass becomes clear for moments of God revealing Himself. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by Joy in God breaking through to us about our mission and our missions field– a JOY that makes no sense apart from God!


  9. Dear Joy,
    Oh, I am so sorry for the grief that you and your fellow church members must be feeling today. I will be lifting you all in prayer! He truly is our resting place when those unanswered questions and pain seek to overwhelm us. I am thankful for that grace-gift of coming alongside me on my journey, has been such a blessing too! Much Love, Hugs and Blessings to you, my friend! xoxo


  10. Dear Debbie,
    Oh, yes, what a blessing we have found in being able to extend that shade around us! I love this thought you expressed: “Also mirrors for the joy when the dim glass becomes clear for moments of God revealing Himself,” because He will break through those heavy waves of grief, sometimes only for a moment, to show us HIS HOPE and GLORY in Heaven. But we can only experience that with our friends, as we sit with them through the hard & painful places! What a blessing that He gave you such friends during those early days, and then you were able to be that same shade with the family you visited with this summer! His ways are so far above ours, aren't they? Thank you for being such a friend to me as well. Hugs & Love! xoxo


  11. Audrey is such a heartfelt singer isn't she? I listened to this song of hers during my early morning devotional time while I was in Vietnam! His rest and His shade is such a precious gift! Blessings to you!


  12. Wow! Reading your excerpt and reflection of Jayber Crow shows me what a deep and powerful book this must be. You have a beautiful way of expressing yourself through poetry. Thank you for sharing that gift with all of us.

    PS I have ridden a motorcycle before. I loved it!


  13. Dear Mary,
    Oh what fun to know that you have enjoyed your own motorcycle excursions! 🙂 I am so thankful that the Lord allows us to share our hearts and to extend the shade that He offers to us, throughout His Body. Thank you for your encouraging words, Mary! Blessings to you!


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