Everyone needs a haven – a place of refuge in times of trouble, emotional or physical difficulty. I learned early on what my source of refuge was…whose wing to find shelter beneath.

As a child I had a very active imagination. My parents learned early on to protect me from things that negatively stimulated my imagination, like scary books or television shows and movies. If not, without fail, they’d wake to screams deep in the night.

During third grade I experienced nightmares nearly every single night for a few months. As I look back at it now I believe it was likely tied to anxiety and a specific teacher. We went through much the same thing with our oldest daughter, Emelie, her 1st grade year. Night terrors, bed wetting and a severe change in personality ended up being the result of a method of discipline (shaming) a particular teacher was using in her classroom at school. We pulled her out and all our lives became more peaceful almost overnight.

My third grade teacher despised me; nothing I could do was good enough. I remember wondering if she enjoyed torturing me. Third grade, for some reason, wasn’t a challenge. I’d finish my work and grow bored; I became a bother to those around me. Other teachers gave me extra worksheets, allowed me to help them staple packets, grade papers or run errands for them, but this teacher wanted me to sit still and be quiet.

The year dragged on and every day after school I’d have to deliver a report to my parents of my behavior for the day. A single, black stamp – smiley face or frowny face sealed my fate for the evening.

I hated that teacher. I hated that year.

I also hated the nightmares that began that year. I dreamed of a man with a machete that was coming to cut me up piece by piece. I would pull the covers tight over my head and tuck them all about me, so as not to let anything in. A tiny little “breathe” hole was the only thing I allowed and I would wait – as still as I could be – and listen. I tried to fall asleep before my parents went to bed, but if I didn’t…I’d lay awake listening – hearing sounds I mistook for him.

Sometimes the fear became too unbearable and I would scream out for my parents; a blood curdling scream that had them running (at first) or walking (as the months wore on) to check on me. They were tired – at their wits end.

I was terrified to go to sleep.

And then, one Sunday at church our Children’s minister offered a challenge. Whoever could memorize the 23rd Psalm and say it from memory into the microphone at Children’s church, would get a 2 lb. bag of peanut M&Ms.

Chocolate has always been a major motivator for me, so you can bet I got busy memorizing that scripture.

As luck would have it, my 3rd Grade teacher had a Bible on her bookshelf. It took a bit, but I finally found the nerve to ask if I could use it, and to my surprise, she agreed. I would finish my work, retrieve the Bible, and write the 23rd Psalm over and over.

Day by day, line by line, I memorized the 23rd Psalm.

A couple of Sundays later, I stepped up to the microphone at Children’s Church and recited the entire passage. And yes, I took those M&Ms home.

I didn’t realize then how that passage would impact my nights and my days, but as God’s Word does, it touched me to my core.

Surprisingly to me, it came to mind as I staved off nightmares and I begin to call for my parents less and less as I drew refuge in the words,

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

In class, I would write the passage over and over on paper, practicing my handwriting and trying desperately not to get into trouble.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul.”

And later in life, when I first set out on my own and spent nights alone in an apartment, I would pray the Psalm until a peace came over me and I could rest.

“Thou annointest my head with oil. Thy cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Mine is rooted in my faith.
Do you have a refuge?