“And it shall be said, ‘Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.’ For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” ~Isaiah 57:14-15
“The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” ~Psalm 121:7-8
For me, life is always interesting. And sometimes life is very interesting. And sometimes I can’t figure out what is going on.
Today is a day like that–which is also interesting.
It is a rainy spring evening in the American Midwest. The sky is a soft, pale grey, the air is still quite chilly, the rain is blowing and dripping heavily, and the wind is slipping by as quickly as the time seems to be flying….
I awoke this morning with my head full of the things I had been planning on doing this week–I have a few sewing projects with my name on them all cut out and ready to assemble. But I have not done this because I have felt ill all day long, dull of mind, and weak. Experience has taught me that, in such a state, I surely would have merely bumbled my sewing, made huge messes, and ended up with a less-than-excellently made garment…. When I am in a slightly more “normal” state of mind, I love the process of “building” clothing–especially when it is to be pretty outfits for a specific event…but I simply cannot find it in myself to enjoy this work in the state in which I found myself this morning.
The other foremost thoughts in my mind upon awakening were of my grandfather who lives with us. He had a long day out and about yesterday getting his dislocated hip reset–only to discover that it was quite visibly out of joint again by bedtime. My exhausted father was immediately on the phone with various hospitals and doctors, which resulted in a plan to take him in first thing in the morning. My grandfather has had significant decline since he broke his hip the end of November last year–but the amount and significance of his decline of the past week, in particular, has been difficult to watch. By this afternoon, I learn that he also has a previously undiagnosed heart condition which has (most likely) been somewhat contributing to his current frailty.
Meantime, along with all this and many more thoughts scattering around my dulled consciousness, I am wondering what is going on with me and my indwelling spirochetes, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, for my symptom sets seem to be shifting here recently and I don’t know what to make of it…but the words of Psalm 121 keep running through my head. When my mind is as grey and befuddled as it is today, I can’t seem to keep focus on any series of thoughts for very long–at least, not to any significant depth. The short Psalms of ascents are especially suited to such days…. Not only have I read Psalm 121 multiple times in my daily Scripture reading over the past week, but the sermon at church yesterday drew heavily from this passage, as well. Indeed, yesterday “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'” (Psalm 122:1). Some of us in my family have been taking turns staying home from church with my grandfather and I had thought that it was my turn to stay home yesterday. But the good providence of God had arranged otherwise–and I also was among those who were assembled together to worship our gracious Lord. Not only that, I was feeling pretty good; so I was doubly blessed yesterday.
Here, then, are a few of my bumbling thoughts from Psalm 121….
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Up, up…looking up the side of a mountain, up to the fortress, up to the stronghold, up to the throne of the King…it is from there, from on high, not from the earth or from any earthly physical power that we are given strength to persevere. Not only that–our God finds and helps each one of us individually…and it is with the same power of him who made heaven and earth that he stretches forth his hand to help us, each one….
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The Shepherd of Israel, the King of the Church, watches over all his own, he keeps each one of us, he knows all our paths–all the time…. In the hour when we are not able to sleep, he is there. In the times when we are given sweet rest, he never slumbers. Always he watches and guards each one of his own….
“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Not only does our Shepherd and King never sleep in his watching over us and strengthening us, he promises he will keep us and bring us safely at last into his presence forever. We are his–our lives are in his hand because we belong to Christ–and he will preserve us through all those things he has ordained for us to pass through, for our good, for the good of his people, for his name’s sake, for his glory……