A couple thousand miles a way, a mother grieves the death of her newborn. A baby girl.
How did it feel to cradle that tiny, swaddled babe? I wish a memory could make me feel the baby softness of a newborn cheek again.
It’s a couple days later the huge apartment house on the corner of Chestnut and Liberty Street burns down. The flames consumed that stately building once towering three stories high, carving out a hole on the street corner. Just one day and twelve households are homeless.
I wake up every morning and drag myself out of bed and I never feel like I got quite enough sleep.
Life just feels heavy sometimes.
Babies die and houses burn down and people suffer. Children starve. Slavery still exists.
And all of this threatens to consume, like a fire it overwhelms.
I’m gasping for air and my initial instinct is escape.
Sometimes. I just want to escape life. You too?
The sadness threatening to engulf us, bordering on sheer madness, and we, the ordinary, stuck in the daily monotony.
“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” I read these words in the book of Exodus.
Sometimes I want an exodus from life.
I’m tired of sadness and suffering and all the battles raging around me.
I wonder if that’s how the Israelites felt when…then came Amalek and fought…
Three verses later in this seventeenth chapter of Exodus, I am transfixed. “And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.”
Moses hands held the rod of God.
Moses hands held the rod of God, and –
when he lifted them up –his hands – Israel prevailed.
Joshua defeated Amalek and then God told Moses to write it down as a memorial.
And I stop reading when I get to verse fifteen, ” And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:”
Jehovahnissi. The Lord is my banner.
Moses hands held the rod of God and the Lord was his banner.
The laundry is never ending and I lose my patience so quickly. I speak sharp words to my husband in the middle of the night and crawl out of bed in the morning, fighting back tears because who can live on five mere interrupted hours of sleep every night? Why won’t my baby sleep anymore?
My head pounds. My heart feels twisted in a frustrated knot. I just want to sleep normally again and I’m sick of the endless to do lists of the ordinary.
Jehovahnissi. The Lord is my banner.
It’s there in the book of Lamentations, chapter three, verse forty-one:
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
And Lamentations, chapter two, verse nineteen:
Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” The words of the 89-year-old sister in our church who lost her home in that fire last week. Her arms are raised to the heavens, her posture declares Jehovahnissi. The Lord is her banner.
And isn’t this only how we can stand when life feels heavy? Bowed low with hands held high in expectation, gathering under Jehovahnissi, trusting that God will come and deliver.
Moses hands grew heavy and I imagine them weakly trembling restless, but Moses remained rooted under the banner of the Lord until God prevailed.
My life drags heavy…and maybe yours, too? But what would it mean for me to raise my hands high in a declaration that Almighty God is Jehovahnissi over me?
No matter what I face, no matter what darkness threatens to overwhelm me, what would it mean for me to remain there steadfast, proclaiming His goodness and blessing the name of the Lord, waiting for God to overcome whatever heaviness I face in my life?
God always wins.
And those who overcome are those who gather underneath Jehovahnissi.
Some of us have fallen out of bed and crawled our way to the top of the ridge, and we tire like Moses and drop to the ground weak. And we question our lives and the sorrow of our days, and tears of helplessness and frustration are shed, and sometimes darkness seems like it will prevail.
We’re the battered and broken, bowed low yet unbending, holding each other’s numb hands to the sky, declaring…
The Lord is my banner.