“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”– King David (Psalm 57:1-2 NIV)
Were we still in the days of paper and stamps, the letters would arrive damp with her tears. Instead she updates by email from a hospital far away. Her husband’s heart is failing. I plead with God to hold them so closely they would feel the beating of His very own heart as they walk through the valley of the shadow. In the sterile domain of the mortally ill, where the hush in the hall is broken by sobs, sometimes it seems God is nowhere to be found. Perhaps He is across the street, flying a kite with a child in the park? But while I’ve flown plenty of kites, I’ve also been to the morgue. In the still of that silence I heard His heart best.
When our daughter died, we walked the sacred ground between Heaven and Earth, and there I first heard the heartbeat of God. I also felt it; I smelled it. Curled up on the hospital carpet as we waited for Catherine’s body, a virtual stranger wrapped me in her arms, my back against her chest, and the steady rhythm of God’s heart pushed my breath in and out, in and out. Later at home, and for days to come, it thrummed through the sounds and the scents of the saints coming and going, bearing hams and lilies; pleading prayers and passages on our behalf. Steadily it thumped in the rhythm of life, pulling our own hearts in tow lest they lose their momentum and surrender their song.
I’ve changed in the years since my daughter went home, because I now know the heartbeat of God. I hear it in the wail of the siren and the hum of the heart monitor. It throbs in the background as children let go of their parents, parents let go of their children, and as husbands and wives whisper, “goodbye, for now.” We can drown out the tempo with a flurry of fists as we pound on His chest and scream out our pain. But in the quiet of after, when our voices are broken and we’re fresh out of tears, He pulls us in close to His steady, strong comfort. He gathers us in and holds us next to His heart.
I have little to offer those who walk through the valley of the shadow, but I’m not afraid to go with them. I’ve been there before, and I know God is there. In the shadow of His wings I’ve felt the beating of His heart.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)
©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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