The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
A dream image from years ago fills my mind’s eye as I sit in Lectio Divina with this verse.
In the dream, a group of friends and I are gathered on lawn chairs in a horse-shoe shaped field, ringed on one end by houses. It is a beautiful night, the rural sky inky-black and star-studded; the summer air soft with a humid breeze. The sound of crickets ratchets up the noise level of a quiet evening. I get up and walk into the nearest house for a cup of tea.
Walking back into the night as I sip my tea, I look up and see an army of angels encamped around the field. They stand in a semi-circle, just beyond the houses. They remind me of cornhusk angels you find at craft shows just before Christmas, except they are 20 or 30 feet high, and they are awesomely alive.
Immersed in conversation, the rest of the group remains unaware of the angels’ presence. “Look!” I cry, pointing upward and outward.
“Oh yes. The angels. I summoned them,” my friend Barry says nonchalantly. As if it’s no big deal. As if he summons angels on a daily basis.
How often have my husband and I prayed a “hedge of protection” around our home—around Joel’s home—around Matt’s home in Oxford where until just recently our adopted daughter Sarah rented a room—around Justin and Elizabeth’s home in Clifton? How often have we prayed this prayer as we’ve climbed into the car for family vacations, sat on planes waiting for lift-off?
Oh yes. The angels. I summoned them.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (v. 17).
Looking back over the past 30 years, I think of our prayers for a retreat center in the country—one near a university, close to a state park, with a big expanse of sky in front and a wooded area in back. A little cottage surrounded by gardens, with a circle drive dotted by out-buildings. This vision came to fruition a year or two after the dream of the angel encampment in that field of houses, and I am amazed at how similar the scene is to where we are living and ministering today.
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him! O fear the Lord you his saints, for those who fear him have no want!” (v. 7-9)
When you’re living with disability, life can get hard. So is living with a parent’s dementia; living with chronic pain; losing your spouse, your job, your health. Not one of us escapes life unscathed. My current struggles concern a mom with dementia, a son with depression, and another major life transition for Joel as we have to find a new day program for him. And yet…
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” (v. 18-20)
As I read through this Psalm from beginning to end, I am reminded once again that the Lord saves us out of all of our troubles—He delivers us—we can take refuge in Him—He answers our prayers—He is GOOD—we lack no good thing in Him—His eyes are always toward us—He hears our cries for help—He is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit—He delivers us of all our afflictions—He keeps all our bones—He redeems our lives—He will not condemn us.
I sit with this dream vision of 20-30 foot angels encamped around houses in a field, I let myself experience once again the summer humidity, the inky black sky, the glimmering stars, the friends gathered around. And then I look out and see those awesome angels, encircling us, protecting us, loving us. I slowly turn my mental kaleidoscope to see them encamped around our home here at Cloudland; turn again to see them encircling Joel’s house; turn again to watch them encircle Matt’s house; encircling Justin and Elizabeth’s house, protecting our adopted daughter Sarah's new apartment.
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.” (v. 1-5)