Wednesday, 13 February 2013

On Trust, Fear and Stones

"Because he loves me says the Lord, I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name." (Psalm 91: 14)

All at once, I notice that it had become very quiet. At first I lean back and just allow it to flow all over me, feeling my limbs grow soft and heavy. I hear the rush of the swollen river, the cicada's singing, the almost imperceptible tread of our cat over the wooden floorboards. Then I remember, silence means absence, absence means little people are too far for comfort. I find the smallest at the fence-stile, (a pedestrian rural fence crossing) looking a bit lost. His brother, it appears, had decided to expand his boundaries. Once again, the strings are let out a bit more. It unnerves and excites me to see his independent spirit constantly pushing beyond the known. Then I remember the body of water that the adventurer may need to cross and with a sprint, we set out after him. He is found marvelling over a new litter of piglets, peppering our smiling neighbour with questions.

Concern and fear have a fine thread running between them, and I cross over that line as soon as I take my focus off the Most High. Then I descend into fear. There are enough scriptures to remind us that fear is not from God and is therefore not a place where I should go.

I remember a time before mountains and babies, when a fist of fear had such a hold of my heart that I felt it grow cold and small in my chest. It was an ordinary Sunday morning, when another silence had set me on a search and discovery of my Oriental cat at the top of an avocado tree in my garden. This rescue mission resulted in me tumbling almost seven meters from the leafy top of the tree to the solid ground underneath, (just a few centimetres from a jagged boulder). Writhing with pain, I was whisked off to the nearest hospital. Scans and x-rays revealed a shattered vertebrae. Fear set in. "You won't walk again", the first icy breath whispered in my ear. A fine surgeon sawed some bone from my hip, built up a new vertebrae with all the bits and pieces and clamped the whole lot together with titanium brackets! But still the fist clenched tighter. "What if you fall" it taunted - "the whole lot would just fly to bits and you'll be back at square one". And so it went on. Each time I had to will it away with all my strength and focus on the challenges at hand. Then one silent sunny morning, after I'd left the hospital, I found (was shown) Psalm 91.

I read the Psalm of Trust with hungry eyes, feeling my spirit soar more and more after each line. Just listen to the first two lines: "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty". Sublime truth in poetry. "He alone is my refuge, my place of safety". Each line has shone with special significance at different times. Like the first time I went for a walk in the street, a stiff composite brace tight around my torso. With a robot-like gait, I took the first tentative steps on the uneven tar road. A few steps later my foot struck a loose stone and I nearly lost my balance. The fist tightened again. Shaking and out of breath I turned the corner back to safety. This was not to be. Coming at me like the hound from hell, was a snarling German Shepherd, fast and focused. I felt utterly defenceless. Closing my eyes, I prayed a desperate prayer. Then taking a firm stance on faltering legs, I looked the animal straight in the eyes, pointed my finger right at him and said in a voice that was not my own: "You go home, NOW!" And he did. This was before Crocodile Dundee did that trick with the buffalo, so I had no inspiration besides from above...

Later that night I read in verse 11: "For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands, so you won't strike your foot against a stone". Needless to say, I was not "scared" to go for walks again, and probably became a regular comical sight in the neighbourhood.

Recently I was reminded that: "He will cover you with His feathers, He will shelter you with his wings" (v4).God shown as a compassionate mother bird protecting her young. And his wings extend over my children also. So this mother bird can rest in the knowledge that the chicks are and will be safe. Surrender is hard but sweet.

This beautiful psalm/poem concludes with God's promise of protection that comes to those who have faith in him. "Because he (she) loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue Him. I will protect him for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation" (v14-16)

And that salvation has come. When Jesus said on the cross: "It is done" - it was done for me. And when he rose from death and was taken up to sit at the right hand of the Father, an eternal life with him was sealed. Not because I loved him, but because he loved me first. He has removed fear of death itself.

For His grace is sufficient. He is faithful. He is my shield and my rampart. Now and always.


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