Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. –Psalm 17:8
There are days when I plead for Him to come and come soon. When the weight of the whole broken business of life grabs hold and pulls me straight to the bottom, when I’m sure this can’t go on much longer—certain that redemption is right around the corner. It must be. These are the big-tragedy-on-the-news days, the hard-and-hurting days, the desperate-for-redemption days. The only response is the groan of my soul as it leans its weight into the shoulder of God and I linger long in the shadow of His wings. Those are the days I seem to say it over and over and over. Have mercy.
And then there are days when my soul doesn’t groan, days when I am downright basking in the blazing heat as I wander farther from those shadowy wings. These are the too-busy days, the life-is-going-okay days, the Bible-is-collecting-dust days. I forget about God. I busy myself with all the things and squeeze half-hearted worship in between grocery shopping and calling the dentist, and all the while I stray farther from His wings, in fast pursuit of living.
But life outside of the shadow of His wings is no life at all.
I know. I’ve lived there.
Left to my own devices, I make a home in the darkness of the world. I believe that life is about the things I do, the places I go and the busy I chronically wrap myself in. I have strayed far from the wings of my Father, chased every kind of worldly delight and unwrapped sin disguised with endless sorts of shiny wrappings. This world is a candy store of false satisfaction and in my foolishness, I am a child who has wandered far away from my Daddy even as He calls my name, sampling every taste of this sugar-coated world, believing the serpent’s age-old lie that there is something more fulfilling on this earth than His protective shadow. I eat of what He tells me not to eat of and in doing so, I forsake the entire beautiful garden for the sake of the forbidden.
I have learned through much pain and doubt that the colorful intrigue of earthly temptation melts quickly into darkness with every moment that I live as the center of my own universe. What tastes sweet rots the heart as it rots the teeth, and distance from God is not freedom after all but a cavity in the soul that widens with every step away from Him.
I am Eve’s daughter and I have run fast and often from the shadow of God’s wing. I follow serpents through fields of lies and the world gets dimmer and dimmer. My eyes adjust to the dark and I begin to think God is too far, too big, too busy for the likes of me. And I keep pretty busy anyway doing all the things so I’ll just chill here in the blackness for a while and get comfortable, and I’ll catch up with Jesus later on, when the going gets tough, and it always does.
I return to the place beneath His wings, the place he leaves wide open for me, but I am battered from all that He has warned against, all that He seeks to protect me from. The groaning of my soul in the hard things is better than a carefree distance of dependency because it is in this state that I wander from Him most. People say it is easy to praise God when things are going well, when life is good, but it is also easy to coast through a sugar-coated illusion of living in a state of false contentment. It is harder to be on my face before God, the most elevated place I could ever hope to climb, when I am distracted by the shiny things of the world.
The deeper I draw to His heart, the more of a big, beautiful paradox I see Him to be. It is only in Him that the last shall be first. It is only in Him that flat-faced at the floor of the cross is where we find mountaintop glory. It is only God’s shadow which does not hide light or block it, but draws us ever nearer to the light, that floods us indeed with the Light of the World.
Away from His shadow, there is only darkness.
My 5-year-old is afraid of the dark, and its another way that the child-like get to the depths of God before the rest of us. Every night, Caleb and I have our ritual of goodnight prayers, silly giggles and just-one-more-then-I’ll-go-to-sleep kisses and then we giggle and implore those bed bugs not to bite and just before I leave the room he yells it, desperate, “Don’t close the door! Leave the light on for me, I’m scared of the dark!”
I hope he always is.
And as I busy myself with everything other than settling tightly in the arms of God, it becomes my prayer, too.
Leave the light on for me, Lord. Help me fear the darkness of sin so much that I do not stray outside of your protection, like I have so often. Remind me, Lord, that there is no forbidden fruit, no sugar-coated life that can satisfy and that away from you, there is only darkness. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.