Two weeks ago, I woke from a brief Sunday afternoon powernap to find a black spot on my arm. I thought it was a piece of mud, but it would not come off. When I looked closely I realised it had legs and was moving. Alone in the house and unable to remove the tick sucking my blood, I did what any man would do, I drove to St Peter’s A&E. As I was driving I kept watching the tick closely to see if it was burrowing its way into my arm. I imagined it disappearing into my bloodstream, like something from the film Alien.
Sitting for two hours in casualty did not improve my peace of mind. The nurse who saw me admitted having removed several from herself in the past, but only managed to pull the body off leaving the head inside my arm. She called a doctor who, with the aid of a magnifying glass and scalpel, performed microsurgery, removed the head, cleaned the wound, insisted in showing me there was nothing left in my arm and prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics.
Back home, an Internet search for the symptoms of Lyme Disease did not improve my state of mind. Apparently these little creatures feed off foxes, deer, dogs and the disease they carry can attack your brain, heart and other vital organs.
I am sure it is purely coincidental but in the space of a couple of weeks, I have left my iPad at the Archdeacon’s home in Ripley, I’ve left my my laptop at my mother’s in Lowestoft and my Fitbit Flex fitness wristband, well, I have no idea where it has gone. And that was my second one. And then Thursday, I lost our dog Dilly in the woods, for a worrying 15 long minutes. Long enough for me to begin thinking, how am I going to explain this to my wife?
I’ve shared some of my stresses and worries this week – what about yours? Has it been an anxious week for you? Any sleepless nights? A racing heart beat? Raised blood pressure?
It is at times like these that I turn back to the Scriptures and remind myself of the One who sustains all life. Through the Psalms, in particular, the Lord provides comfort, clarity and renews my strength. This week I have been dwelling on Psalm 121.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
As a child brought up in the flat countryside of the Suffolk coast I always dreamed of living somewhere surrounded by mountains. A holiday in the far north of Scotland last week revived my soul. I love the sensation of travelling, of sleeping out in the open, and of being surrounded by mountains.
This beautiful little Psalm was arranged to be sung by pilgrims on their way up to the Temple, just as the mountains surrounding Jerusalem came into view. It was also intended to be sung in the late evening before retiring. Psalm 121 is a song of hope and confidence in the strength of God. Hills are places of safety and hiding. Solid, firm, immovable. Instead of looking down at our insecurity, we are told to look up. Look up to the one who made the hills and mountains. Look up to the One who travels with us along life’s journey, and will be our Guide. In this short Psalm we are told about three specific things the Lord will do.
1. What He does: He Watches
“He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber.” He watches over you. This is more than merely observing what is going on. His watching is active, searching. A few years back, we had to cut short our holiday on hearing that our home had been burgled. The angels must have been watching because when the intruders smashed my study window to gain entry, a neighbour heard the noise and phoned the police. They arrived within minutes and caught all three. We were very fortunate. What ever happens to us, this Psalm tells us the Lord watches 24 hours a day. The Lord is greater than our Army, Police, Security Services, and all our Neighbourhood Watch schemes thrown in. Nothing, absolutely nothing can happen to you without the Lord’s knowledge and consent. What He does, He watches. Secondly we are told ‘how’?
2. How He does this? He Shades
“the Lord is your shade at your right hand;the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” The word for shade comes from the Hebrew for shadow. The Lord is like a shadow, closer to you in fact than your shadow. As a child, do you ever remember playing a game of trying to run away from your shadow? It is just as impossible for a child of God to be separated from the over shadowing of our Heavenly Father. Thirdly, we are told ‘why’?
3. Why He does this? He Keeps
“The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”The word to ‘keep’ means to preserve tenderly, just as eyelids are keepers for the eye. The lids open to let us see, they close to defend giving rest and sleep. The Lord promises to watch, protect and keep you safe.
That is why the Apostle Paul could insist “Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Make that your prayer this Autumn and may all your fears, stress and worries evaporate like the morning dew.