Scriptures speak of God as our friend, provider, helper, refuge, and strength.
God is all those things, and more.
A few days ago, I was surprised when I read this verse in Psalm 121:5.
The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
I was unaccustomed to God’s being referred to as a shade.
In the Bible, references to God as a “shade” or “shadow” may indicate His role as our defender.
He certainly is that.
But the discovery of this verse has caused me to think of God as the cooling shade provided by a big tree.
Summers in the South are hot.
I grew up in a house that had no air-conditioning. Its rooms were cooled only by air that sifted through our window screens. Hot and dusty, that air rarely stirred the curtains.
We craved shade.
Soon after we moved into that house, Dad planted a row of silver maple trees along the west edge of the yard. They were tall and spindly, but they shaded that side of the house.
On the east side grew a big black walnut tree. (The tree wasn’t black. It produced “black walnuts.”)
Another tree also grew at the east edge of our yard.
I only recently learned the name of that tree.
With help provided by relatives in Arkansas and articles on the Internet, I now know it was a Chinese sumac, also called tree-of-heaven.
This tree put off a unique scent, not pleasant or unpleasant. Some say the scent resembles the odor of burning nuts. I wouldn’t describe it that way, but I would recognize the aroma in a single whiff if I smelled it again.
My family members took tasks outside to work in the shade of the tree-of-heaven.
Under that tree, we shelled our peas, snapped our beans, and husked our corn.
When we were small, we napped there on handsewn quilts. We splashed in cool water Mom poured into a big washtub, so she could watch us as she hung out laundry.
When we were older, we did our homework on the cool concrete front porch that was shaded by that tree.
My brother had a seat in the tree where he sat and read for hours.
My sisters and I hula-hooped beneath the tree and made necklaces from the white clover that grew in our yard.
In its shade, my siblings, friends, and I played games like red rover, freeze tag, and ante-over.
Good memories, all associated with shade.
Sometimes, my life gets hot.
This heat does not come from the sun, but from people and circumstances.
Someone says something hurtful. I break a cherished keepsake. My well-made plan goes awry. I learn of yet another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Sometimes the heat is kindled within me by regretted past mistakes or future scary possibilities.
Inwardly, I break into a panicky sweat.
I look for an escape from this heat.
Like a cool shade, God offers me a tranquil space.
In the shade of my Tree-of-Heaven, I pour out my troubles.
He asks me to trust Him and reminds me I am loved beyond measure. He gives me a glimpse into what Heaven will be like when I enter His eternal bliss.
And I am cooled by assurances no human can give me.
Make time today to rest in the peaceful shade of God’s presence.