“We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date!” I want to shout to my kids as they wrestle each other for a place at the bathroom sink, trying to out-muscle each other to see who gets their teeth brushed first. I pause, reminding myself that our tardiness may just be Providence’s way of protecting us. So often, on days when we are running just a few minutes behind, we pass a fender-bender along the freeway or a stalled vehicle at the off-ramp. As we pass, I think about what might have happened had we been in that spot just a few minutes earlier, and I thank God that He allowed us to avoid it. I mentally thank God for that “hedge of protection” I so often pray for when I bow my head and close my eyes. It’s what we all want: a safe barrier between ourselves and disaster.
But it doesn’t always look like that. A few weeks back, my mother-in-law suffered a mild stroke. Now, I know there are many worse and more catastrophic life events, but God used this one to show me just one more aspect of His design for believers. In the midst of our worry and concern for her safety, my husband and I began sending messages to our friends, asking that they pray for his mom and for us as we walked through it with her. Within just a few minutes, we knew she was surrounded in prayer by not only family members, but neighbors and friends who had not yet had the chance to meet her. As the evening progressed, peace overtook my heart. This situation, as with all others, had been placed in God’s infinitely capable hands, and I knew that – regardless of the outcome – we would be okay. He would sustain us through whatever lay ahead.
By morning, we learned that my mother-in-law had arrived at the hospital with enough time for doctors to intercept the worst of the episode and stabilize her. Better yet, the only obvious impact on her health was a slight interruption to her ability to access specific words and formulate her thoughts. Now, a month later, little evidence of the medical emergency remains. God had provided a hedge of protection – a circle of friends to surround her in prayer as she walked a very frightening path. It was that circle of faith that guarded our hearts and minds in the dark hours between the night and the morning.
Of course, it would be wonderful if hurt, challenge, and loss did not enter our lives, but it is in those times that we learn to lean on God the most. Within those times, it can seem as though His protection has vanished and that our armor is riddled with holes. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is in those times that our Faith community – the people who are a part of our fellowship circle – link arms and hold hands in a flesh-and-blood hedge of protection. Our strongest weapon is our ability to approach the throne of God on behalf of another. With this idea overwhelming me, an image drew itself in my mind. At the center of the scene, God held my mother-in-law in His mighty arms while believers knelt at the throne, petitioning God on our behalf. The warmth and love flowing through that image exploded like a forcefield around them all.
So, I began to think about my own Hedge of Protection. Scrolling through my contacts on my phone, sifting through the photos in my gallery, tears blurred the numbers, names, and images. The protection I sought so often was not always an instant miracle, the swerving of an oncoming vehicle on the freeway, but a Great Pyramid of love and faith, built slowly and intentionally over time.
When I cried in my husband’s arms as I miscarried our third child, these people protected me from depression and unfathomable grief by covering me with their prayers. The prayers didn’t stop the miscarriage, but they did bring peace in the sadness.
When my boys lay in bed, high fevers and swollen throats replacing the flu they’d had the week before, these friends lifted them to the arms of the Father. It was as though a hundred arms wrapped them in love until the illness passed.
When my husband and I vowed to each other that we would love each other always, the men and women who formed our village whispered prayers of thanksgiving, blessing, and courage to sustain us over the coming years. I remember hearing their murmurs and petitions in the little white church where we married, as those words reverberated off the 150-year-old walls, and I see now the walls they built with their words and their promises as we to continue to walk this road together.
Cultivate those friendships. Connect with those who share your beliefs, your faith, and your compassion. Invest in people who will always have your back, the ones who drop everything to kneel and pray. For it is in those relationships that God works to build a protective hedge that will bring strength, courage, and peace for the challenges you face.