I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
– Psalm 121
This chorus was sung by the Israelites while marching up to Jerusalem for worship! Because of their number, one can only imagine the rhythm of their footsteps as their movement created a beat. The road was perilous with hidden dangers or uneven terrain, but the knowledge of God – Creator, Helper, and Sustainer – strengthened their hearts.
Due to the length of the journey, the Israelites had to make camp along the way. Sentries were stationed to issue warnings if danger was present. The hills offered some protection. However, the travelers were confident, placing their hope in the God who stood with the watchmen. The God guiding the pilgrims offered security day and night from the elements and the situations they faced. Israel’s help was found in God alone! He ordered their steps and He is leading us even now!
A few years ago, God allowed me to travel safely to Jamaica alone! The trek itself was wonderful. My heart felt a kind of peace and freedom I hadn’t experienced in a while. With that thought, I decided to embrace my globetrotting spirit by booking an excursion to Dunes River Falls.
The website description hardly did the attraction justice.1 The sight and sounds of this wonder were breath-taking and exhilarating. I along with groups of tourists had to descend to the beach, line up single file and wait for a guide to lead us upward.
The ascent was thrilling, frightening and even necessary. Some traveling together held hands for support as others attempted to grab hold of the slimy walls as we climbed. With my nervous initial steps searching for visible and unseen rocks, a precious young girl in front of me turned and said, “You be careful!” Her words were received as a sincere prayer to God on my behalf. Those ahead of us seemed somewhat confident as they scaled the falls. I watched carefully to match their movement, stride for stride.
As two groups merged from the right and the left, guides pushed forward and stretched backward showing the trail ahead and returning to assure the safety and continued progress of the pilgrims. These sure-footed shepherds walked the slippery stones through the raging waters as though their feet were equipped with suction cups that strategically anchored them in one motion, then judiciously released them to shift to the next stone stair with ease. Amazingly, our leader was barefoot and navigated the course like the scripture’s description of Jesus walking on the water!
My fear rose to an alarming level due to the narrowness of the path, the speed of the water’s downward flow, and the tentative position of the next rock. My slow, unsteady pace caused me to feel as though I was in others’ way. When the mountain goat-like guide glided toward me, I was just about to ask, “What do I do if I’ve changed my mind?!” Then the notion of stopping was more horrifying than the reality of climbing on.
In that moment, God’s truth regarding my faith journey was made crystal clear. Even though my footsteps were shaky, random, and just plain scary, it was safer to press my way onward with God than rely on my feelings of fear or lean on my own understanding. I was guessing where to place my foot under the direction of our physical guide. But the Ultimate Guide, God, was ordering my steps!
Turning back was not an option. Abandoning the quest meant being swept downhill back to the starting point with new bruises or broken bones. The thought of retreat was coupled with the risk of injuring those behind me or taking them down as well. Turning back was not an option! God was ordering my steps!
What is the point of this meditation? God is calling each of us to trust that God knows exactly what God is doing. God knows exactly where we are now and where we are headed. We may not understand the paths of His leading, but God has a purpose in everything we are experiencing. God continues to remind us we cannot go back to the way we were. We cannot sustain the practices that are so familiar they no longer provide the resistance and struggle required for substantive change and realistic growth.
Our current path is uncertain and disquieting. As a result of the life-preserving protocols in place for our mutual safety, this journey can be very lonely. However, God is present for comfort, hope, and direction. The Lord who watched over Israel is the same God watching over us! God does not sleep or take His eyes off of us. “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” God is ordering our steps.
Stay prayerful and careful! Love you much! AMEN.