Times were different when we were children. Back in the 60's no one thought it odd to allow their children to play in the front yard - oftentimes running from one neighbor to the next depending on who had the neatest toys to play the next go-round of imaginary game play. Today, we sequester our children from the world around them, arranging instead for "play dates" because we have a society in which we do not feel comfortable allowing them to run "loose and free". Sad, isn't it? I wonder, though, just how much of our life's celebrations we miss out on simply because we live so sheltered? I think it may be bigger than we think!
But let me run loose and free, celebrating God's great work, every bone in my body laughing, singing, "God, there's no one like you. You put the down-and-out on their feet and protect the unprotected from bullies!" (Psalm 35:9-10 The Message)
Our psalmist is penning these words right in the middle of a huge battle of sorts. He is surrounded by nay-sayers and those who are against him. In fact, he has been in this battle for a while. Yet, right smack in the middle of the mess, he speaks about the freedom of his pursuers vs. his own. Now, you might imagine he would complain about being "hemmed in" - forced to see and do only what his enemies would allow him to do - but he speaks of being "loose and free". What his pursuers failed to recognize was the celebration within which is not limited by the restrictions we feel "without".
David could have chosen to pull in and live a very sheltered life. Safe and secure from the things which might hurt him in the world around him. Many of us do this without even noticing we are doing it. We simply "live life" without really knowing what is going on around us. David said, "Let me run loose and free, celebrating God's great work, every bone in my body laughing and singing..." It was a prayer as much as it was a statement. He was conscious of the impact of the negative influences around him - he did not want to be negatively impacted by their presence.
As I pen these words today, it is one day after the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado. One man, armed to the gills, wreaked havoc on an entire theater filled with unsuspecting movie-goers. They were innocently pursuing their passion - taking in a movie they had long waited for. In an instant, their world changed - some will note it has changed them forever. We live in a society in which "bad stuff" (even "horrific stuff") happens. We are going along, totally unprepared for the tragedies of life. Then, without notice - we are plunged smack-dab into the midst of something we never thought we'd have to deal with.
We cannot control our world. Try as we might, we cannot "pull in" and sequester ourselves in our own safe little cocoons. In fact, David's prayer hits it right on the head - he is praying for God to continue to allow him to run free and loose. He is mindful of the heart's response of fear - how it paralyzes, pulls back, and tends to limit activity which may be perceived as a threat. We may not be faced with literal assault rifles in our moment of fear, but whether we face the diagnosis of cancer, the loss of a job, or the uncertainty of being left alone after a loved one has passed, we all face our "fearful moments". What we do in those moments determines the impact these moments will have on our lives (often for a long, long time).
David teaches us what to do with our fear - take it to God. He shows us how God is delighted for us to recognize when it is we are beginning to "pull in" and feel less like we are running "loose and free". He is showing us how to be honest with God. We find him surrounded, spoken of in ways which damage his reputation, and threatened in ways we cannot even imagine. Yet, he does one thing with this "fear" which delivers him from the "sequestering" effect of fear - he prays! He opens his heart honestly to God - admitting he's "surrounded". Isn't this what fear does? It makes us feel like we are surrounded. If we are not surrounded by enemies on the outside, we surround ourselves with "walls" to keep others out and ourselves "safe" - don't we?
Look again at what David prays - he not only wants to be loose and free - he wants to be unrestricted in his praise and enjoyment of his God! Fear keeps us from enjoying God as we should. We just don't sense his presence when we are surrounded with fear's tight grip - walls thicker and harder than a concrete bunker. Instead, we are attempting to "deal with" our fears. David shows us WE don't deal with them - God does! How? In freeing us to praise and celebrate his goodness, his faithfulness, and his grace! Now, that is something I can hold onto!
I will not make light of the tragedy the families of those in Aurora, Colorado are facing now. I will not diminish the losses of families with loved ones who have laid down their lives in the line of duty for the service of our country. Their lives have been changed forever - but God can pick up the pieces of even the most horrific tragedy and bring us through to the "outside" of our walls, if we give him access. Learning to dance with God is so much more liberating than learning to befriend our fears!