Yesterday noon found me sitting in a local diner with one of my “girls.” (My “girls” are women who were students of mine at Wheaton College somewhere in the 90’s.) She is not, of course, a girl anymore, but a lovely young woman in her 30’s with a passion for the Lord and compassion for the world. Her passion/compassion has taken her on a fascinating pilgrimage over the last decade.
So over our salads we spoke about “Confidence,” and how it was that Mary had needed to walk the road from her utterly simple “Let it be to me according to your word,” to the much more complicated awareness of “a sword shall pierce your soul,” that I believe greatly strengthened Mary’s confidence in God. My friend asked me, “Carla, why does it have to be like this?”
My response? To live in a receptive place before God means that sooner or later we have to discover the Lord as our shield. He will protect and heal our hearts, even if he permits them to be wounded. Jesus did not spare Mary. He doesn’t tend to spare us, either. Since we cannot simultaneously be self-protective and find our confidence in God, we are, at times, led into places where we have to choose to walk with steady step behind the broad shield of Christ when our natural instincts would be to fight or run.
Today I am still thinking about this conversation as St. Patrick’s Breastplate runs steadily through my heart; I pray this prayer every morning these days, and find comfort in accompanying my prayer with simple hand motions that help my body as well as my soul remember that Christ’s protection is all-encompassing:
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me.
Christ as a shield overshadow me;
Christ under me; Christ over me;
Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
There are seasons where “yes” to God is the most delightfully simple space in the world. And there are seasons where another “yes” to the same God requires hands to unclench and hearts to stay steady under intense pressure. In these moments we need to know ourselves flanked and infused with the presence of Christ, our all-present, all-powerful protector.