His Broad Back & His Everlasting Arms

My son drew a worry monster this week.  A little sketch made of charcoal pencils in his tiny notebook. The worry monster didn’t surprise me. He looked like what I would think a monster would look like: large, foreboding, and strange. The little boy is what choked me up. A little semi-stick-ish figure holding two very heavy weights, one with each hand. 

What weights they carry. What weights they carry. These children of ours have seen and processed things that should never be seen. 

Those children in Nashville. Those bereft families. The strain of so much gun violence. It’s nearly crushed me. It’s nearly crushed us all. The worry monster is threatening to eat all of us as we carry our weights. Or that’s how I operated the first few days of these week: disorientation; brain fog; futile attempts to micro-manage because the world seems more than a little off-tilt. 

Everlasting Arms Underneath Us

But God met me. He met me through a verse, a portion of a poem, and  an image from C.S. Lewis. I’ve been meditating on and memorizing parts of Deuteronomy 33 where Moses speaks blessings over the twelve tribes of Israel. Of Asher, Moses speaks the following blessing and inheritance:

“There is none like God, O Jeshrun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy  33: 26-27). 

Those everlasting arms that are underneath holding all of this, holding all of his children who are reeling this week, holding up the battered globe that holds our battered hearts — those arms must be straining. But they will not snap. He is not like man like he should lie (Numbers 23:19). He is the everlasting One who never tires (Psalm 121). 

In the midst of these horrific days, we are held. Yes, we are held, and we are carried. 

A Broad Back that Carries Us

In his poem “Of the Incarnation,” St. John of the Cross imagines a conversation between the Father and the Son before creation. Two stanzas that I have committed to heart that have also offered comfort:

“I go to be close to the bride
and to take on my back (for it’s strong)
the weight of the wearisome toil
that bent the poor back for so long. 

To make certain-sure of her life
I’ll manfully die in her place, 
and drawing her safe from the pit, 
present her alive to your face.”

His very human back carried the weight of the eternal cost of our sins compounded over all time. And it crushed him until He rose bodily and crushed death. He went down into the depths of death, and He and only He can lift us up from it. C. S. Lewis captures this powerfully in his book Miracles. 

‘In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity…He had created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must also disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.” 

The weights are crushingly real. The worry monster is large and looming. But the Rescuer is convincingly near. Our only hope is in Him, the God with everlasting arms and a broad, risen back.

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