Shadow Walking: Even There

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. ~Psalm 139:1-10

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During my teen years, a poster hung on my closet door with Psalm 139:9,10 printed on a beautiful picture of the ocean- “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  It became imprinted on my memory and when God began to nudge me to step out in faith and go across the world on a missions trip, I knew that no matter where I went, He would be with me.

I followed God’s prompting and in the summer of 1992, I spent 10 weeks away from my family serving God by digging trenches and mixing concrete for a Christian youth camp in Australia. Every day, I read Psalm 139 and the truth of God’s presence washed over me. “You hem me in behind and before…” It became clear to me over the course of the summer that God never asks us to step out in faith without also promising to be with us every step of the way.

“You lay your hand upon me…” Have you ever been in a crushing crowd of people, afraid that you will lose your companions and then you feel a hand on your back or your shoulder and you feel a sense of relief wash over  you? You’re not alone. They are by your side. This image is what I consider when I think of God laying his hand on me. He is close, he is present and he wants me to know this. He is not a distant God. When the worries of life weigh down upon me, threatening to crush me under their load, his hand gently steadies me.

“Such knowledge is too lofty for me to attain…” When I was a 17 year old girl, my heart could barely take it all in. When I looked up at the sky at night, I was seeing different constellations than my family was seeing at home in Pennsylvania, but the same God was watching over all of us and walking by our sides. His unabashed love for me was overwhelming, but even more incomprehensible was that his love was lavished on the whole world. At that time, I was beginning to get a sense of how big the world really was (I had flown 21 hours on 4 different flights to get to that place on the globe!). God was bigger than all of this, yet he was intimately involved in the details of my life and the details of the team member working next to me and in the lives of my friends back home and in my parents and my sisters and my youth group and…!! Twenty five years later and this still blows me away!

Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast…” When I am walking with my kids in a parking lot, I automatically reach for the hands of my two youngest ones. I know that they need guidance. I am also keenly aware of their tendency to dart away from me. For their protection, I hold them close to my side. I don’t do this to confine them; I do this because I love them. As God’s child, there are times when I want to go my own way and his hand can feel confining. But he holds me fast and as I yield to his leading, I discover the love he is showing to me as he protects me from my heart that is prone to wander.

Over the years, God has answered every question I have with his unwavering presence.

Is God with you in the comfort of your home? Even there.

When you step out in faith is God with you? Even there.

When you feel abandoned by friends whom you trusted is He there? Even there.

Is God with you when you live hundreds of miles away from your family? Even there.

When the image on the ultrasound doesn’t match the growth chart on the wall is He there? Even there.

When you feel completely inadequate will He be there? Even there.

Is He there when you feel like your heart could burst with all of the joy He has brought your way? Even there.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. ~Psalm 139:23,24

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