“When I was a kid, “sanctuary” meant only one thing. It was the big room with the stained glass windows and hard wooden benches where my family worshipped every Sunday…
Today, “sanctuary” is as vital as breathing to me. Sometimes I find it in churches, monasteries, and other sites formally designated “sacred.” But more often I find it in places sacred to my soul: in the natural world, in the company of a faithful friend, in solitary or shared silence, in the ambience of a good poem or good music.
Sanctuary is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer.”
According to Parker Palmer, the author of the lines quoted above, the healing and empowering experience of sanctuary can be found not only in religious, but also in secular experiences, not only apart from the world, but in the midst of it. Sanctuary exists wherever and with whomever we can let down our guard, be our selves, and open our hearts to the mystery of life.
The renewal we all need as a result of the stressful responsibilities of our personal and professional lives is often overlooked. We push ourselves to accomplish one more task, meet one more deadline, and attend to one more person’s need, before we give ourselves permission to rest – which often means falling into our chair or bed exhausted. For many of us, self-care is thought to be self-ish, and although there are times when the demands of work and relationships must come first, if we continually ignore our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, not only we, but those around us will pay the price.
Physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer once said: “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Sanctuary is about self-care for our own sake and that of others; it is a womb-like experience from which we are to be birthed into the world. Finding and resting in sanctuary is important not only because we are important, but because without the renewal it offers, we will not be at our best to serve each other.