The Shadow of Your Wings

11 06 2012

She read, and the words unfolded like a gorgeous flower with a pervasive fragrance that filled her mind, crowding sense of other things. In so many ways it sounded right.

And yet.

In spite of the orderly layers of pleasing arguments budding into full bloom before her very eyes — in spite of this glorious display of brilliance that demanded admiration and received a gushing ovation, she felt only one emotion.

Sorrow.

Deep, deep sorrow.

And she didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but these words she’d read, promising freedom, promising hope — to her, they offered nothing solid. Nothing real.

She loved and respected the heart that uttered the words, and she also loved the hearts that applauded that heart. She believed that she and they had been adopted into the same family, were loved by the same Father, tended by the same wise, patient Gardener.

But she couldn’t gather flowers here. Couldn’t sing this song. And it broke her heart.

* * *

She slept with heaviness as a covering, but no weight holds back the sun. A new day dawned, and it was time to assemble with the saints. She dressed and got into the car, her heart still wracked with a sadness that lacked words.

He started the engine and selected a CD, and as soon as the first notes filled the space around her, she bent her soul toward their light. His voice wrapped itself around her ache, and petal by petal, she opened.

Grace and peace,” he sang. “Grace and peace to you from God, our Father.” A cello, steady and resonant, buoyed lilting violins, and the piano kept a steady pulse, and he sang this grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ straight to her soul.

She closed her eyes and let the blessing baptize. She was hushed now. Ready to hear.

The next song began. Quiet arpeggios trickled from his fingers like a stream, and she could almost smell the earthy goodness of a well-watered meadow and feel the cool shade of trees flourishing beside its banks.

And when he sang, the Word spoke.

All flesh is like the grass. The grass withers and fades away.

Simply, gently, he sang this truth again, in case she missed it the first time.

All flesh is like the grass. The grass withers and fades away.”

She heard. And sparks of light danced on rippling waves.

“The glory of man like a flower that shrivels in the sun and falls.”

This, too, he repeated, the cello adding an undercurrent of hopeful sadness, of heart-rending tension. Because, as beautiful as this glory of man may be, it is small, frail, fading away. For all his passion, his intellect, his longing to do and be good, he is like grass. He does not plant himself or water himself, and the sun that both makes him grow and withers him in the end, it depends not on his crusades and causes, his platforms and soap boxes, his exalting of his own ideas or his twisting of higher ones to make them suit his taste.

He sang truth to her soul, and the light almost blinded her in all its shimmering splendor:

“But the Word of the LORD endures forever. The Word of the LORD endures forever.”

Something inside her broke, and she awoke, and this radiance lit a fire in her bones. He sang on, and she blended her voice with the ancient words, making them her own heart’s cry.

Let the words of my mouth
be pleasing to You,
pleasing to You,
the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to You,
pleasing to You,
O Lord, my strength
and my redeemer.
O Lord, my strength
and my redeemer.”

She pleaded, and the Word responded,

Whatever is true,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is worthy,
think on these things,
think on these things.

Yes, Lord. Yes.

Open my lips,
I will sing Your praise forever.
Open my lips, O Lord,
I will sing Your praise forever.
A broken spirit and a contrite heart,
these You will not despise.
Open my lips,
I will sing Your praise forever.”

Come, let us worship and bow down,
and kneel before the Lord, our Maker.
He is our God,
He is our God.
We are the people of His pasture.
He is our God,
He is our God.
We are the sheep of His hand.”

And then, as though unable to contain their joy, the instruments took over, a harmonious eruption, like the unfettered delight of those who’ve found shelter in His pasture, set free from slavery to self, willingly constrained by Love. Assurance rose with the notes and she sang again.

“Worship the Lord in holiness,
Let the whole earth stand in awe.
He will come to judge the world in righteousness and truth.
He is our God,
He is our God.
We are the people of His pasture.
He is our God,
He is our God.
We are the sheep of His hand.”

And she wondered how simple sheep ever come to think we know more or care more than the righteous judge. Why do we beat our silly heads against His wise and loving law? He is good, good, good in what He gives, and so very, very good in what He forbids.

With each new song she heard and declared life-giving Words, calling all creation to praise Him, declaring Him faithful and unchangeable. Morning by morning, new mercies seen, and all that is needed provided. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, with ten thousand blessings beside.

She listened, she sang, and she knew. She would never let go, no matter how misunderstood, estranged, or set aside she might be. His truth mattered more than fitting in. His truth was all that mattered.

Her spirit rose with the litany of praise, like one long, perfect prayer. As they neared their destination, a final song began, the opening notes minor. Melancholy.

O God, You are my God,
earnestly I seek You.
My soul thirsts for You,
and my flesh yearns for You
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

The piano almost wept. And she wanted to weep with it.

I remember You at night,
through the watches of the night,
in the shadow of Your wings,
I sing because You help me.
My soul clings to You,
and Your hand upholds me.
You alone.
You alone.
You alone.
You alone.”

God alone. Not the opinions of others. Not popular doctrine or an ineffectual love that offers unconditional acceptance but no power for deliverance. She couldn’t embrace or endorse ideas that pretended an authority never intended for mere grass.

As much as she loved and would continue to love and pray for friends who’d planted themselves passionately on shifting sand, she couldn’t join them.

She was too small and the winds too strong. She needed to sink roots into the Rock.

He parked the car and they got out, the sweet, melancholy notes still lingering in her heart.

* * *

She sat in a blue chair, and a man of God opened the Word of the LORD that endures forever.

He read Genesis 22:18, the promise that Abraham’s offspring would bless the nations, and he read Galatians 3:16, which reveals that this promised offspring was Jesus Christ, and he read Revelation 7:9, where John received a glimpse of that promise consummated — the sure, unshakable future, when people from every nation, tribe, and language will surround the throne, worshiping the Lamb.

And this man of God, he encouraged her to go be part of God’s big story, but to understand that she’d have to leave her American individualism behind. Her parents were wrong when they told her she could be whatever she wanted to be, he said. She can’t. Not if she wants to be part of the big story.

Because it’s not about her doing whatever she wants or fulfilling her dreams or standing up for her rights. The story is God’s story, not hers. And the more she tries to make it about her, to conform it to her will, to edit out the parts that go against her grain, the more she cuts herself off from life and peace and true purpose.

The story isn’t hers. She isn’t even hers. She belongs to Another.

It wasn’t by chance. Not the reading or the sorrow. Not the music or the sermon. This story has an Author, and it is finished. Not one word will fail. All will be brought to pass. And she will not deny this Word that endures forever to please the other flowers.

She will bloom here beside quiet waters, in the shadow of His wings. For Him alone.

* * *

Giving thanks in community for (#505-515)

sorrow’s beauty illuminated
God’s kindness that leads to repentance
the living, unchanging Word
Christ alone
comfort
hope
Fernando Ortega
cello
the big story
being small


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13 responses

11 06 2012
Simply Darlenel

… and the angels rejoice in her smallness.

Oh my, miss J, this is God-grande.

Blessings.

11 06 2012
jeannedamoff

Thank you, dear Darlene. You are such an encouragement to me. xo

11 06 2012
Sharon O

Beautiful… poetic and story form… just wonderful.

11 06 2012
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Sharon. You are kind. xo

11 06 2012
lschontos

In the past several days I find myself crying out to Him for truth. In the midst of controversy and misunderstandings and bickering over things that seem so small I want to hear only His voice. I think of Jesus’ beautiful prayer that we would be as one and wonder where we have gone wrong.
I love this Jeanne.

11 06 2012
jeannedamoff

Yes, Linda. I feel the same way. Doesn’t that John 17 prayer break your heart and make you long for all things new? Jesus asked, so we know the day is coming. How we need Him to come and deliver us from ourselves.

Love you, friend.

11 06 2012
S. Etole

The truth will set us free … you’ve presented it so beautifully.

12 06 2012
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Susan. And yes. What a glorious promise! May we know it more and more.

12 06 2012
Dolly

how His word cleanses and restores…thank you for reminding me that it is His story…yes, to be small…

12 06 2012
jeannedamoff

You’re welcome, Dolly. I need to be reminded all the time.

13 06 2012
ljbmom

Oh, Jeanne. I felt every line of this. The weary, the sorrow, the lift of the music…

Sending you love, dear heart. For the heavy days.

15 06 2012
jeannedamoff

Thank you, dear Laura. Sending love right back to you.

26 06 2012
Tonia

Oh Jeanne. I have been thinking about this so much as it relates to my own art. How we need to stay firmly, deeply rooted in Scripture and prayer in order to have a well from which to draw. If we simply reflect back to the world our own image and wisdom, that is a shallow offering indeed.

And how many times has that particular CD lifted my own soul? I was singing along with you.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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