God is often described in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms, as a "shield." But it's not what we normally think of a shield as being.
Too many medieval movies and battle scenes have convinced us that a shield is a fairly small piece of metal that one holds in front of oneself for protection from incoming assault. This small piece of metal is generally attached to the arm and must be moved around and repositioned as necessary to alternately protect oneself and see the way forward.
But when God is described as a shield, He is nothing fairly small. And He isn't just concerned about assault from the front. When God is described as a shield, His protection is all-encompassing. "Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me" - about me means around me. It means every facet of my being is protected by this shield, not just some small little area to my front. Psalm 5 says God is a shield, and then goes on to say, "You surround...." The shield of God protects His child from every direction.
Which is pretty handy because the truth is that as cautious as we are on the forward approach, most of us aren't getting assaulted by what lies ahead of us.
Most of us are getting assaulted by what lies behind and beside, the stuff that's out of our line of sight.
We're getting assaulted by wounds that we covered up, but never healed, which are bursting open on the battlefield and pouring our blood on the ground. We're getting assaulted by friends, or in some cases, by family, that have said they are standing with us, but their arrows are pointed straight at us in not-so-friendly fire. We're getting assaulted by broken relationships, by unspoken apologies, by unforgiveness, by regret, by remorse, by guilt, by shame. We're getting assaulted by all the things we're walking away from, not by the things we're walking toward.
Yet we hold our shields in front of us because it is all we know to do.
The funny thing is, I think it's almost a counterdefense we're playing. We walk cautiously into the future, seeing all of the arrows that are coming at it from behind, and we hold up our shields on the chance that the future decides to fire back.
Good news: it won't.
Whatever happens to you tomorrow, whatever future you walk into, will never be an assault on your past. That's not the way time works. It doesn't revert itself for revenge; it marches forever forward. It's your past you have to worry about. It's your present that's a little unpredictable. All this time we spend trying to guard ourselves into tomorrow, and it's yesterday that always takes the fatal shot.
We're guarding our hearts only to get stabbed in the back.
That's why I love this image from the Old Testament, particularly from the Psalms, where God is described as a shield - the kind of shield that surrounds His child. Because it reminds me that God's got the whole battlefield in sight. He sees it all. He guards my heart going forward, the same way that I'm tempted to do, but He's also got my back. With God as a shield wrapped around me, the arrows of my past have no place to land. With God as a shield wrapped around me, it doesn't matter if my present is a little unpredictable. I can move confidently forward into a hope that is as undeterred by the battle as I am. Into a hope that draws me forward out of my battle lines.
Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me. Not some dinky little piece of metal that I use to guard my heart, but a real fortress of protection that's also got my back and stands at my sides and marches onward with me into hope.
Thou, O Lord, art a shield....