This week I had the opportunity to video chat with my daughter and her three young children. Every time we communicate with each other my heart goes out to them. They are restricted to a small townhouse with a tiny yard. My daughter, being cautious, and wanting to keep her children safe, doesn’t want to let her children go outside those parameters. Their world is confined, complex, and energetic.
They are a classic case of being hemmed in. Tripping over each other most days. Tussling and active on a regular basis. Bouncing on the furniture. Camping out in improvised tents. Their lives are governed by circumstances that are out of their control. It is frustrating and exhausting.
Even for those of us without young children at home, the feeling of being hemmed in is strong. Our interactions are limited. Going outside our homes is discouraged by authorities. Even trips to the store can be anxious as we plan for what we need and execute our shopping excursions with minimal interaction.
King David, in the Old Testament, also felt hemmed in. In Psalm 139:5 it says: “You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.” (NIV) David is using a battle analogy in this instance. Though he is besieged, there is comfort in knowing that God has his back and his future in His hands. Having the need to be hemmed in is not great, but it is often necessary to be successful in a battle. It is a time to regroup and sort things out.
Being confined in many ways these days isn’t fun, but I know it is a time where the Lord is working in my life. I learn many lessons when I don’t have all the outside activities interfering with how I plan my day. I focus more on the things that matter – faith, relationships, caring, helping. My life becomes more about people and less about stuff. I treasure personal contacts and take time for more meaningful pursuits.
In earlier verses of that Psalms chapter, David speaks of God knowing him inside and out. That is both intimidating and comforting. Yet, this God who knows me so intricately, surrounds me with His blanket of love. I am safe in His care. I relax knowing that He has it all together and I don’t have to do it on my own.
David goes on, in that chapter, to speak of God’s reach into our lives:
“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.” (verses 7-10 NIV)
There is nowhere in all of creation where God is not hemming us in with His love and care. Just as my grandchildren are safer by staying in the confines of their home and yard, so God protects us when we are in the confines of His boundaries. His borders provide security but are not limiting, they are freeing. When we know God has our back, we can more readily explore all that He has for us.
God knows every step I take. He has me surrounded. I can’t escape His love. What a comfort that is! No matter what battle is going on around me, God is both behind me and before me. I am nourished and strengthened by His overwhelming and all-encompassing love for me.
Yes, this pandemic has us hemmed in. It is disheartening and often tiresome trying to cope and stay safe. Thankfully God also has us hemmed in. We are safe in His love. Nothing that happens will ever change that.