the shield we can all share
Hello there! Good morning to you, he calls. He has a brightness I can feel before I see him, even though I realize as I look up that his gear—suit, helmet, even the bike—is all black, like the deepest part of the night. I’m suddenly aware that I’ve been staring at the pavement, while he is not so focused on the space in front of him to miss the chance to greet me, to bless me. God bless you, he calls, and the words wrap around me as he passes–an embrace–such that God bears all the richness and warmth and strength and you comes out faded and light, as it should. I smile over the freedom about that man—the silver hair cropped just long enough still to move, still to be visible at the edges of his helmet; the skin of his cheeks sun-touched and deeply grooved along the laugh lines. I wonder at the history I hear in his voice. He passes quickly, lifting one hand, and then he’s gone. But I am left with the impression of something far more significant.
Scarcely could that man have known how much I needed the blessing, or still more, the testimony of the light in his face. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Beneath the shade of the trees, along the path that curves out long behind me, I have come to leave my burdens, crumbling bits of things—some heavy enough to remain, some skittering away on the crisp breeze with the first leaves of Fall. I’m a free spirit who struggles much over not feeling so free.
Somedays things bump together and fly into me, and I try to find a smile in it by giving it a silly name–the diabetic tango, maybe–but the truth is that the place where diabetes and autism converge is just hard. These days, I try to teach my lengthening son not just how to clean and cook and brush his teeth well, but how to be responsible for his own life-critical medical care. And we live with a famine of words. All it takes is one battle-worn day when together we miss something significant, and I feel like a husk for a week.
So I take a walk in the shade of those trees, examining the things I hold in my hands, trying to let them fall from my achy fingers, knowing that the greater effort will be not to pick them up again on the way home. The longer I pray, the faster I walk, as though Trust is all the substitute I need for energy. I lose myself in the action of letting go and find God— waiting on the rise of a weathered bridge, in the leaves floating over my shoulders and gathering at my feet, in a simple blessing that surrounds me so tangibly it lifts my eyes toward the skies. That man riding by—could he have known what he offered me?
God bless you. Three simple words that glint, iron-strong; words not light or weak or trifling; armoring words, and powerful—the shield of faith. Those words are enough to extinguish the flaming arrows of evil, because the fact that God is with me, that He blesses me, changes everything I see, everything I feel. Indeed, He has said to me many times, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It matters so much more that He is able than that I am not, and the shield of faith is the welcome understanding that I’m only a clay vessel well-held by Grace; it is the truth that God not only is but that He will. God blesses me, and so I can stand face to face with the impossible and declare that everything is possible with Him. He is my shield, my very great reward. He blesses and He is the blessing.
Scarcely could that God-lit man have known he wasn’t just offering a kindness, but that still more, he was tossing a shield to me, a weary mom asking God to touch her eyes that she might see. And so it is that the pierced hands of our faithful, Almighty God tip one clay vessel toward another, pouring grace in and through to overflowing, until His light seeps through the cracks in us and flows forth from our tongues and shines in our faces; until together we become the wealth of His Glory.
Oh that we vessels might not underestimate the weight of His hands, nor minimize the power of their work in even the smallest use of us.
For when I am weak, then He is strong.
So here now—just as I pass alongside you today, let me also share the shield:
God bless you. You are loved.