Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
1 Samuel 17:37
If I lost,
I would have lost with the Lord.
If I was afraid,
I would have been afraid with the Lord.
If the giant intimidated me,
the Lord would have been with me.
If I missed with the first stone, the Lord would have helped me aim the others.
Had I let the armor bearer dress me—had I worn the king’s coat of mail, the Lord would still have given me strength.
But I didn’t lose with my Lord.
With my Lord:
I was not afraid,
My first shot stuck down the giant,
and as I stood above the pile of his body,
my boy-sized shadow blotted the sun from him.
With my Lord, I lifted the sword,
and brought the head of his defier to Jerusalem!
For the last few weeks, I’ve had every intention of waking up early to watch a sunrise. But the steadily declining autumn temperatures and my warm bed hold me prisoner to my own sleep. This prayer below is an imagined sunrise prayer, written in the evening while dreaming about the earlier hours of quiet.
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord,
Let my knees wear a spot in the floor in this prayer space. Let my tears fall so hard, they stain the wood. Here, before the dawn breaks, I’m asking for your unfailing love to cover me for this day. Thank you for all the ways you are working in life, especially in drawing my children nearer to you and strengthening this household in Christ. Lord, I ask that you please move for the people I’ve been praying for—new and familiar—and use your hand to guide me through the troubles of this day about to come. You grant me so many of my prayers, I know you listen! I know you know my heart! Please, I pray, let me know yours. Every morning, it’s just us, and I pray you reveal yourself as brilliantly as the cresting sun.
Sick the lions on me. Drop me into their den and let’s see if they have the courage to feast. I’ve been thrown into their cave before by my enemies. And sometimes I’ve brought myself here. Quietly, Lord, seemingly without reason, you’ve tossed me a sword. You lowered me a life line. When I was my most desperate, you reached in and lifted me up. Safely in your palm, you hid me under your wing until trouble passed. Why do they surround me with their temptations? Worse, why do I work so hard to bring it on myself? My human eyes are blinded to your plan. When you set me down safe from the lions, I pray you give me strength to become what I am to become, so I can slay something more than my own demons.
My perfect moment in 2019 came before daybreak on Easter morning. I woke my children in darkness so they could ready themselves for church. The outdoor sunrise service was to start at 6 and I was anxious to experience the perfect moment of a brilliant peach-pink sky finally broken by the sun while we sat listening to the word being preached. But that wasn’t the perfection I found. Instead I was standing in the kitchen watching my daughter eat breakfast when I slid open the kitchen door and stepped out onto the deck and the morning darkness. The moon was still lit in the tree branches above me and the clouds were moving quickly as though they were being pushed by angels. It was silent out except for the singing birds who’d come back after six months in hiding. A feeling of renewal came over me there in the dark. I could hear my daughter scooping her cereal methodically, a few clangs of spoon against a ceramic cereal bowl, and I had this vision of that moment, 2,000 years ago, in a garden halfway around the world. Before dawn, Mary finding the tomb empty. Mistaking Jesus for a garden hand. The reason for her existence both confirmed and turned upside down — instantly. I imagined a setting just like this, and the sounds of the chains breaking and snapping from all of us in rhythm with my daughter’s inadvertent clangs. I could see and feel it in my soul. I spent the next several mornings awake at dawn, asking for that kind of clarity. The voice and Spirit of Jesus. Sometimes, it came.
Some of us have to be broken before reaching this point — before we have a heart for truth. Before we are willing to let someone teach us. Before we can be saved or put our hope in a source we can’t see. But that’s the paradoxical nature of the gospel. The act of putting up your hands in surrender is actually heroic, and it finally brings you into the loving heart of Jesus. The moment we quit relying on our own strength is the same moment we win eternity.