A Shield Around Me
A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.
1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
"God will not deliver him."
3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift [b] up my head.
4 To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
7 Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
When I committed this Psalm to memory at age 13, I was trying to arm myself with scripture. Actually, I was just trying to get through each day. It was the worst year of my life. Take the typical 13-year-old issues, add some not-so-typical 13-year-old issues, and, just for fun, throw in a heapin’ helpin’ of physical awkwardness – and you’ve got one hell of an adolescent nightmare. I hated walking through the doors of my school every morning and I hated every second I was there. Church wasn’t much better. Most nights, I went to sleep praying I could wake up as someone else. Maybe as some Latina chick named Veronica in the Bronx. Or in an African hut on the other side of the globe. Anywhere but where I was would have been fine.
I tried to stay positive. Really, I did. I tried waking up to music with good, motivational messages like “Don’t Look Back” by Boston (a song that turns my stomach now). But whatever mood those songs put me in was shattered the second I walked into my school.
So I looked to scripture. I had read about POWs who had endured their ordeal with only the scripture they had memorized before being captured. They didn’t see a Bible for years and could only rely on the words in their memory. This inspired me to memorize more scripture, so I opened to the Psalms. My eyes fell on the third one, which looked short enough to remember. And its words spoke to me – sometimes in different ways, depending on what was going on. Some days I really liked the concept of God as a shield. Some days, verse five made it easier for me to get out of bed. And some days, I pictured God breaking the teeth of the wicked. Violent as it was, that image provided me with a lot of comfort. Just knowing he could do that.
And really, really wishing he would…
That year never got better. In fact, it got remarkably worse at the end of the year. But the words of Psalm 3 stayed in my head, and I like to think now that it kept me going. It kept me getting up, getting dressed and trudging into a school (ironically, a Christian school) in which I was grimly outnumbered by my foes.
I don’t really remember the words to that stupid Boston song. But I remember the words of Psalm 3.
Now I spend time regularly with teens, and some of them who may be hurting as much or more than I was at 13. Over the years, I’ve offered the words of the third Psalm to them with the promise “This Psalm will get you through ANYTHING.” I hope it helps them the way it helped me.
Sometimes we want answers from God that never come. We can hurt deeply for a long time without knowing why. But focusing on God’s presence, protection and power can make it bearable until deliverance comes at last.