Lifting My Head

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

I have not considered this verse in a long time. Reading it in the past always reminded me of the song, “Thou, Oh Lord,” by Lisa Ireland. I’m not sure when I first heard or sang this song, but the beautiful overlapping melodic lines and powerful words are easy to recall. I can hear them in my head right now…

Take a listen.

When this verse popped up on my phone today, I thought of the song for a moment, but then my thinking took a different direction. Three clear ideas came to mind-birth, sickness, and death. These notions shifted my focus to the last phrase “lifter of my head.” It’s an unusual phrase, certainly not one you hear every day.

The first thing that came to mind was a newborn baby. I pictured new parents, cradling the head of their precious little one. The baby does not yet have the strength to hold its head up. The mom and dad are the shields, protecting until the child grows stronger. I’ve experienced this feeling of responsibility with my own children as I held their tiny heads in my hands, keeping them safe.

The sweet image of newness was quickly followed by the idea of frailty and illness. Many of us have taken care of someone who is sick. Too weak to even lift their head, needing assistance to take a sip of water. If you have had the opportunity to help in this situation, you know it’s not easy. Here I’m reminded of my mom’s battle with breast cancer, and the assistance she required following surgery.

Finally, I pictured the end of life, the process of dying. A time when we are once again reminded of our weakness and frailty. If ever we need someone to lift our head, this is the time. What a comforting gesture, providing a shield against our fears. This one is the most difficult, one our family faced together as my father-n-law bravely battled cancer to the very end.

“The lifter of my head.”

In each scenario-birth, illness, death-this sweet phrase brings much comfort. Such reassurance in knowing there are people in our lives who love and support us during critical times. Even more so the knowledge there is a God who is concerned with each of these moments. And that He places people in our path to demonstrate this love.

While at my weakest, I do not have to be afraid. When I am unable to lift my head, help will come.

Saying Goodbye

We celebrate life from the very beginning-baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, promotions.  These events bring happiness, reminding us of the beauty of life.  But how do we respond to death?  How do we prepare to say goodbye?

Although I’d experienced the death of family and friends in the past, I’d never witnessed the process of dying until the passing of my father-n-law.  Our family was given precious time to reminisce, create final memories, and say goodbye.  Sadness mingled with gratefulness as we each had the chance to say,  “Remember when…?  I love you.  We will be ok.  God is with you.”  While coping with the grief that followed, my mom reminded me of the following verse:

”God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”  Psalm 46:  1-4.

Today it is my mom’s turn to witness this process of dying.  She will soon be saying goodbye to her oldest sister.  In preparation there have been family gatherings filled with memories, laughter, and tears. Today my prayer is that mom, her siblings, and my cousins will fall further into that refuge and strength spoken of in Psalm 46.  Even though sadness and grief will surely come, my hope is for peace found in having had the precious privilege of saying goodbye.