“The Lord protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.” -Psalm 116:6 (NRSV)
Simple? Who’s calling me simple? Well, of course, I am. I am always tempted to get my hackles up whenever someone insults me (not that that happens often, right?), but over the years, I’ve found it easier to yield to the opinions of others. I don’t agree with them, necessarily, but I let others think what they want to think. Their thoughts are like the morning fog that dissipates with the rising sun and warming air. The morning mists may be thick, but I’ve never found them to hold me back. I may have to slow down to a crawl and feel my way, but I can still move forward. The point of this passage, of course, is neither the simplicity nor the complexity of those whom God protects, but the hedge God has placed around the garden and those that God tends within. The ancient Hebrews did not build walls or fences to protect their gardens; they grew thorny hedges. Those hedges grew naturally, protected the garden naturally, and were a bloody nuisance to intruders (like deer or wolves). The image this psalm conjures up is that of a child who has fallen and can’t get up, and rather than abandon her loved one, God stands watch and will make a bloody mess of any wolf that may seek to devour that precious child. Church is, and always has been, the hedge behind which I can grow and bear the fruit God desires. It has been so even more during these never-ending months of pandemic, and shall continue throughout this Advent season.
Gracious God, you surround us with a hedge of protection; your Law does not constrain us, but those who would do us harm. When injured, you stand guard and keep us safe. You bind our wounds and make us to heal. May we also be a healing balm here in this Gilead wherein we stand, this day and always. Amen.
– Fr. Keith Axberg