Sept. 28, 2016: Enfolded
This summer we conducted a number of adult baptisms at a nearby beach. Whether it was late afternoon when the sun casts long shadows on the sand (and everyone promised me the water would be warmer!) or very early in the morning with the sun having taken its place in the east, we gathered at the shoreline and prayed together. Each baptism was special and unique yet I could not help but notice that on each occasion, as we battled to make ourselves heard above the wind and the sound of the waves breaking, there was always a moment when a particular stillness broke over us – a very distinct peace that completely shielded and enfolded us. Of course, it could have been a timely coincidence and yet, by the end of the summer, I came to each baptism with the anticipation that at some point we would encounter this sense of being enfolded in His presence. And I was never disappointed.
Isaiah 41:10 gives us a picture of what I believe we encountered at the water’s edge. The Lord reassures us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
These words of reassurance actually begin with two commandments. The first is "fear not." The second is “be not dismayed” and the New American Standard Bible captures it this way, "do not anxiously look about you.” To these commands God then provides us with five footholds, five promises that undergird His encouragement not to fear or look anxiously about us. Within just this one verse, God promises:
- I am your God.
- I am with you.
- I will strengthen you.
- I will help you.
- I will uphold you.
God expresses these promises in five different relations to us, in five different prepositions:
- I am your God – over you.
- I am with you – by your side.
- I will strengthen you – from deep within you.
- I will help you – all around you, from wherever the enemy comes at you.
- I will uphold you – from underneath you.
David knew the “enfolding” of these promises when he wrote, “You [Lord] hem me in, behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5).
Taking the same promises to heart, St. Patrick wrote in his “Breastplate Prayer”: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I arise today – through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
This is a powerful prayer, set upon the foundation of God’s true and certain promise to enfold us in His promise, peace and protection. Here is where our experience at the water’s edge is explained. I am reminded, however, that, to quote St. Patrick, I am invited to daily “bind unto myself” these promises – to enter into each day in anticipation of being enfolded in His love.
So this day, come in out of the storm (if that's the kind of day you are having), take a deep breath, be still and know that He is your God – over you, He is with you – by your side, He will strengthen you – from deep within you, He will help you – all around you from wherever the enemy comes at you, and He will uphold you – even to the point of carrying you.