Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me too lofty for me to attain. 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. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:1-14

I grew up on a lake in the-middle-of-nowhere Arkansas. Gigantic chicken coops were our form of skyscrapers. Kids drove tractors to school. Highschoolers went ‘muddin’ and ‘four-wheelin’ on the weekends. The first day of hunting season was practically a state holiday. Culturally I never really learned to fit in quite well, but I did learn to love that little lake outside of that tiny town. At night I’d walk out my front door to find stars that felt so close, they’d tempt me to reach my hand up to see if I could touch them. I could see hundreds and hundreds of them. The Milky Way in clear view, I would stand in awe before God’s creation. I’d walk down to the lake in pitch black, never looking down to see the road, eyes firmly planted up above on the stars. Each nightly walk down the road on the side of the lake was my pilgrimage to a holy place.

We were in a valley and the wind would come through and send the waves in my direction as I found my way to my spot. I’d sit and talk to God, looking up at the stars and seeing his power and beauty and creation, and then I’d feel the wind and hear the waves and know that he cared about me, little, tiny me. I felt known, anointed, called, loved. Sometimes I felt so full of faith, I knew I could just walk out onto that water as Peter did. Those nights with God shaped and formed me.

This week I got in a pretty massive car accident. Surprised I’m alive, I just have some soreness and bruises to show for the whole ordeal. Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants are getting me through (oh! and nice neighbors who are letting me sit in their hot tub). As we all know after traumatic experiences, sleep is often the hardest part. You replay the moment in your head over and over and over again. ‘My mistake. I should have gone right. Why did I go left to get around them? I shouldn’t have slammed on the breaks so hard.’ The never-ending reel of shame and negative self-talk can be more destructive than the accident itself.

Thankfully, I had already scheduled an end-of-the-year massage for today. As I laid on the massage table, my entire body tense, the video reel began to play again. The spinning out of control across six lanes, seeing the car coming in slow motion right for me, bracing for the hit, spinning again, getting hit again, slamming into the median, stopping… and breathing. And then I’d restart the reel. And suddenly I hear a still small voice saying, “Let it go.” It’s my massage therapist gently whispering in my ear. I don’t know if she’s talking to my muscles or to me, but I began to imagine Jesus standing over me whispering, too, “Let it go… Walk with me to a place of peace. Meet me outside on the lake. Feel the breeze. See the stars.” I begin to let go as I picture myself on that lake. And she whispers back, “There ya go. Let it go.”

The Psalmist this week reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. An omnipresent, omnipotent God who created the universe and stars and heavens and darkness and light cares about you and me. None of us is perfect, but we are made in His image. If you, like me, have had a tough week, tough month, tough year, let it go. Find your lake and be with God. Be reminded of his love for you. He has searched you and he knows you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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