In 1951, when I was nine, my parents bought a small farm just outside of Craik, Saskatchewan. Our living was provided by the cream and butter from a few cows, the eggs from 200 hens and garden produce from two acres of market garden. My father also worked as janitor at the local eight-bed hospital.
A ravine wound its way through the pasture on this farm. At the far end of the pasture, on the side of a hill, was a massive buffalo rubbing stone. Surrounding this stone was a hollowed-out area on the hillside, created by the passage of millions of buffalo over thousands of years. The rock was rectangular in shape, with a raised step on one end, somewhat like a giant recliner. I could sit on top of it, stretch my legs out and rest my back on the raised portion. There was a scraggly native honeysuckle bush growing at one end. The first crocus flowers of spring would appear nearby on the hillside. Later in summer I could eat berries from the nearby saskatoon bushes.
When I sat on this rock, or in its shadow, everything man-made disappeared. The town, the highway, the railway tracks, even the fences were not visible from this location, due to the turns in the ravine. Not even the sounds of civilization penetrated here. I could imagine that great herds of buffalo were not far away, over the hilltop, followed by the people who hunted them.
This was my refuge from the storms of my young life. Here, in this timeless setting, the tensions and conflicts at home and at school faded away. I couldn’t see into the future, except to understand that the troubles that seemed so large today, would pass, like the flowers of spring and the snow of winter. With this I could again face today.
The highway has been re-routed and now I see that rock every time we drive by. Once, I parked the car on the shoulder and climbed through the fence to sit beside it once again. It wasn’t the same. The exposure and the hum of the vehicles going by on the highway took away the feeling of refuge. I felt a little silly, sitting there in full view of the passers-by.
Today, Jesus Christ is my changeless, timeless rock of refuge. In His presence, in His shadow, the transitory things of life fade in importance, leaving me to contemplate everlasting realities. Jesus is not a silent and impassive presence like the buffalo rubbing stone. He is an active participant in my meditations, showing me what is truly important, giving me peace and courage to face the realities of life.
I do not have to walk far to find this Rock. There have been times, when feeling overwhelmed with conflicting thoughts, with temptations or sorrows, that I became aware of an invisible presence calming my mind and soothing my spirit, giving me direction for the next step to take.
The apostle Paul speaks of something like this in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” The old buffalo rubbing stone was a temporary refuge for me in my younger years. After I left home I often wished to find that refuge again. It seems now that the Rock, Jesus Christ, was following me even though I was but dimly aware of it, and only for brief moment s. I finally made Him my Rock of Refuge at the age of 28.