Find a space of sanctuary

Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island

Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island

If I place my trust in God’s abiding presence in my life, slowly shaping me into the person God longs me to be, the hidden treasure of myself will be revealed.

One of the rituals I look forward to every weekend is my Saturday morning soak in the tub. When we moved into our house almost 14 years ago now, I promised myself that I would make good use of the soaker tub. The tub is tucked into a corner of the bathroom in a part of the house that was probably attic at one time. It has a sloping ceiling with a skylight above the tub. It’s a perfect spot for a bit of end of the week meditative relaxing.

Paying attention to detail, especially symbolic detail, is an important part of ritual.

Paying attention to detail, especially symbolic detail, is an important part of ritual. So I don’t just hop in and scrub! I take the time to make sure all is in place to feed my senses during this time of indulgence. I set the radio to my favourite station and I light all the candles on a ledge surrounding the bathtub.

In the winter, the candlelight illuminates the bathroom with a warm glow. The light is a reminder of the light of God’s presence in the world. It reminds me that I am called to carry God’s light into all the dark places I encounter during the week. The glow of the candlelight calls me to rekindle the light within myself, to cleanse the dark places in my soul, even as I cleanse my physical body.

The candle flame is also symbolic of the purifying nature of fire. The candle light encourages me to be present to those places in my life that are holding grief or have felt purged by a raging fire of events in my week. This raging fire may have felt uncomfortably hot at the time, but revealed a truth beneath my pain or disappointment that brought with it a sense of new growth emerging from the fire.

In the summer, the sun pours into the skylight filling me with a sense of gratitude for the greening, blooming presence of God just outside my window. This presence beckons me to rediscover God’s love for me and for all creation.
Along the ledge around the bathtub, I display my collection of sea shells. They remind me of my trips to various seashores over the years.

Those of us here on the Prairies don’t have an opportunity to experience the tidal variation of the seashore very often. Yet even with our Manitoba lakes, the place where water meets land is a fluid, ever-changing landscape. We are reminded in Genesis that water was always present – God’s spirit hovered over the water. God’s command created the dry land and allowed the earth to bring forth all manner of growing things. So this space between land and water seems to be a place of creative potential – of movement, growth and newness. The flowing nature of water reminds us to let go of our grip upon what we have planned and what we desire to plan for our lives, and to be carried by the cradling movement of water. It reminds us to respond to the moments of our lives with a creative openness.

The sea shells, polished stones and a small kelp basket along my bathtub ledge remind me that with the flowing nature of the tide, God reveals to us what treasures may lie hidden in the sand – oyster, clam, seaweed, polished stone, driftwood, tumbled glass. These objects remind me to spend some time being aware of how my life is being shaped, and that if I place my trust in God’s abiding presence in my life, slowly shaping me into the person God longs me to be, the hidden treasure of myself will be revealed.

While the water in my bathtub doesn’t have the ebb and flow of the tide, I am reminded of the prayer of St Aidan, who spent long hours tucked away by himself on the Island of Lindisfarne. The monks chose this place to pray because the island is cut off from the mainland several times each day, creating a sanctuary for prayer set amidst the creative elements of water, wind and earth.

I invite you to find your own space of sanctuary and engage in the opportunity to focus on the sacred flow of your life.

Leave me alone with God
As much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,
Make me an island, set apart,
Alone with you, God, holy to you.

Then with the turning of the tide
Prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
The world that rushes in on me
Till the waters come again and fold me back to you.
– St Aidan of Lindisfarne

By Nancy Phillips