“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.” -Psalm 33:20
I hate to wait, and I often complain about having to wait around. The funny thing is, the Lord has a great sense of humor, and so I have been given my heart’s desire. The silent pause right after Thanksgiving has vanished. Quiet has been replaced with bustle, and the quick series of deadlines before Christmas has woken me and the staff from turkey-induced naps. Now there is no time to wait; this week leaves no room for tarrying.
Part of me rejoices at the demands busy-ness brings. Yet that deeper part of myself, that part of me that is “more inward to me than my most inward part” (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book III, ch. 6, par. 11), who speaks in voiceless stillness (1 Kings 19:12), whispers a challenge and a warning: “He is our help and shield.” The warning is clear, I think. When we rely on our best-laid plans, we invite danger. As we recently learned in our area, not everything is in our control. The weather, for goodness’ sake, can do strange things that will derail our week’s itinerary! If a few inches of snow can throw us off our game, then what hope do any of us have of “managing” the real crises that inevitably come in life?
The challenge is more obscure than the warning and appears only after we learn from the failures the warning suggested. The challenge is learning to take God’s promises at face value. Over time and through enough “hard knocks,” we inevitably learn to ask ourselves why we ever thought to lay aside the only real defense and hope we have for this life. By God’s grace we are gripped, shielded, and defended by a God who never fails. “He is our help and shield” is another way of saying God is who God says God is. God alone is our help when we feel helpless and our shield when we feel defenseless.
And so here in our mid-December, pre-Christmas, got-to-get-it-done exhaustion, we pause to hear the warning and take up the challenge. We sit with the Psalmist at the beginning of verse twenty: “Our soul waits for the Lord.” We wait because we acknowledge we have nowhere else to go, nor anyone else to whom we can turn. We affirm Peter’s question and response: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the word of eternal life” (John 6:68). We wait, even amidst busy-ness, watching and hoping for the only redemption worth having: the redemption of our plans, our hopes, our dreams, and our very bodies, as it ceaselessly draws nigh in Christ’s coming.