Under the shadowof Thy wings
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
My kids' high school is something of a basketball legend in our state. The inside walls of the gym are draped with banners from years past - banners declaring the school league champs, division champs, even state champs. There's a special display case with photos of past stars, one or two of whom have gone on to successful careers in the NBA. As I write this, I know that tonight a key game comes up in the schedule, as they make a long-shot run to become state champions for this year. You'd think that would be the buzz on campus this morning. But it's not. It's not at all.
Yesterday another school down the road, also a basketball stronghold, abruptly withdrew from competition. Could anyone blame them? It was Santana High School, the school the nation now knows, not as a basketball dynasty, but as the most recent site of tragic violence.
Since my own kids are involved in high-school athletics, they are acutely aware that some of their own potential future competitors were among those shot. And, I think, they are also acutely aware that engaging in an endless rehashing of the story has no healing in it.
But healing is what's needed. Where to begin? When you can't put your trust in a "safe" community - one with a Norman Rockwell-like tranquillity to it - you have to look higher. That's what we're trying to do. It's the practice in our family to read from the Scriptures each morning. That way everyone gets some spiritual nourishment along with the Cheerios. Today it was especially meaningful to read from Psalms, "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.... For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light" (Ps. 36:7, 9).
That hit home. Instead of thinking of people as under the shadow of grief, or uncertainty or fear, how much better to realize everyone - children and adults - is under the shadow of God's mighty wings. And everyone can find it to be the safe refuge the Psalmist knew it to be. God is the source of lovingkindness because He is Love itself. And He is the fountain of life because He is Life itself. The presence and power of Love and the truth of indestructible, divine Life have a healing impact.
Love loves all creation with excellent lovingkindness. Life sustains everyone with inspiration welling up from the fountain of life. This is true even for those who died. It's true for their families.
And God's inspiration does more than offer comfort in the face of grief. It also points us toward the practical protection and prevention that are so needed. When people turn to God in prayer - when we remember that we're not distant from Him but safe in the shadow of His wings - that's a turn toward healing and safety. And not just for the ones praying, but for every teen in every high school, because the comfort that comes from that fountain of life flows out to nourish and sustain and renew the whole human family. God's excellent lovingkindness is universal and is more than powerful enough to melt away cynicism or anger or hate. Tragic news reports, when they pile up one after another, can almost seem to devour hope and faith. Again and again, Jesus illustrated that the devourer is not greater than God, Life and Love. Hope and faith are more, not less, needed now than before. Especially when they're rooted in a recognition that Life and Love are always present. That we're all kept safe under the shadow of His wings. That everyone can glimpse, however faintly, that the nature of God as Life and Love is the substance of our nature.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote a passage touching on safety but drawing on a slightly different Bible image than the "wings" the Psalmist spoke of. She said, "How blessed it is to think of you as 'beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,' safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 263).
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor