“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.
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 139:4-10).
Before a word was on my tongue, on my heart, on my page, Lord, You knew it altogether. You knew the thought that birthed the feeling, that attacked my heart, that derailed my day. You knew the groan that slipped my mouth, that formed my words, that filled my eyes with tears I didn’t want.
You knew that little lie that started it all, whispered softly from lying lips. From that father of lies, that follows my soul and knows my weariness like a butler knows his master. You knew it for what it was. Deep lies that I’ve carried so long that I’d forgotten they were there. Lies I had accepted and entertained without ever knowing their dark source.
Oh Lord, will You hem me in?
Hem me in behind — so my past has no space to sneak up on me and shame. And before — so my future cannot wield the catastrophes I conjure. Stitch upon stitch, my soul is hemmed into the present — with You. You lay Your hand on me. Like a newborn baby, swaddled and warm. My soul is swaddled by You, and Your hand feels the rise and fall of my breath.
Can I lose this lovely peace? The safety of Your presence?
Can I mount up to heaven on wings of joy? Can I turn and find You no longer around me? Can joy rob me of safety? Of love? It cannot. You are there at the peaks of my rejoicing.
What about despair? Can life deal me blows so devastating and strong that I will be smothered in the depths of my grief forever and make my bed in the depths of hell? Unable to rise, unable to swim to the surface of all this pain? I tell you, my soul, no. If I descend into the depths, behold, it is well with my soul in that murky cold black, because even there, You are with me.
If I rise on the wings of the morning full of hope for the day, then find myself far from everyone and everything I know and love, Lord, You are already there on those shores waiting for me. With breakfast and comfort. Even in those unknown places, You are there. Waiting, walking there with me, following behind.
How do I know? Your hand is on me. Your right hand holds me fast. If I am secure in all that You are, then what places can threaten me? If fear is not my master, if shame is not my swaddler, then what would I not do for You? Where would I not go for You? I cannot find a place.
If I went, You’d already be there. Hemming me in, behind and before.