“Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: ‘Go, shut yourself inside your house. And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them . . . but when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” (Eze 3:24-27)
Sometime in our lives, we all find ourselves hemmed in. Week after week a writer is wordless, or just as a book is almost finished the possibility of publishing is threatened. One who defines himself by his service tangles with a band saw and winds up casted from fingertips to shoulder. Kids cling. A hospital bed beckons. Laundry hampers or do-lists or inboxes fill faster than they can be emptied.
There are times a whole nation can feel hemmed in. A shooting, a quake, an impending election.
But there is this: a baby is squeezed through an impossibly tight space, hemmed in for an eternity of minutes on its way to meeting the one who has loved and carried and labored to bear it into the world.
Can I trust that the tightest of hemmings is a path into freedom, an invitation into a new way of knowing the one who knows and loves me first?
Might I only learn who God is and who I am by passing through these hemmed-in places?
Maybe it’s when I can’t serve that my heart learns I’m precious apart from my serving.
Maybe it’s when I have to keep loving that my heart learns his grace is sufficient.
Maybe it’s when I realize I can’t control the future that my heart learns to trust the one who keeps holding and loving no matter what comes.
I’ve been soaking for a month in the picture from Psalm 139, “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” I’ve found myself cupped and treasured, God’s hand beneath, his other hand above, hemming me in behind and before, laying his hand upon me in blessing and protection. I’ve loved that place of finding myself treasured and protected and held.
But when the hemming feels harsher and less comforting, can I remember that beneath the surface situation, the same strong and gentle hands still holds me?
Freedom comes only in learning to trust, and for most of us there is no such learning apart from being hemmed in and herded out of our cozy spaces.
Like a camera lens, my mind zooms out from what I see around me to the One who sustains it all, this whole universe held like a hazelnut in his hand, then zooms in again until I see myself held. Cupped there in his great hands, I reach up to stroke the fingers that form the roof above me, loving him as an infant who gently touches her mothers face. I turn over and curl up, settling into rest, placing my small hand on his great one, an offer of my small love, my choosing to trust this hand that holds me.
The winds are blowing and the branches almost bare, but a few leaves still cling, reminders of the love that falls and folds, curls and cups, encircling us everywhere.