Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Selection from “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” early 5th century
Portions of the prayer, that is attributed to St. Patrick, are very familiar. I’ve heard these lines used as a benediction following worship. Each time they’re used, I find them deeply meaningful. I’m a part of a small group of pastors that are diving deeply into spiritual disciplines together. We meet over Zoom, and it’s always a breath of fresh air for my spirit. We are scattered about the US (California, Texas, Kentucky, and a several of us from all over NC). Most recently we have been diving into the understanding that Christ is everywhere. This familiar prayer has been our guide, with the help of the book Christ, My Companion by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.
What does it mean for Christ to be behind us? As I reflect, I consider Christ as the one who motivates and encourages. When someone is “behind” us, it means they’re in full support of us. It means they believe in our vision and our direction, and they are there to “have our back.” This vision turns Jesus into a cheerleader that stands in solidarity with us, no matter how we move forward. Christ is there to encourage us when we fail or take a few steps in the wrong direction. Christ is behind us to motivate us when we feel stuck, lost, disoriented, or immobilized because we are overwhelmed.
What if, Christ behind us, means that Christ is there to protect us from danger – dangers we don’t even have a visual on. Consider Exodus 14:19-20, “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side, so neither went near the other all night long.” Do we truly believe in God’s protection? I need to believe in divine protection – especially in the midst of our present challenges.
My prayer for us all is that we will continue to hear the voice of God leading us forward. There are several reasons for us to be overcome by our emotions. The stressors in our lives are intense and unrelenting. Our loneliness can get the better of us. In many circumstances, we simply can’t do things the way we used to. Continuing to be creative and adapt to new realities and routines is exhausting and overwhelming. We are left wondering how God is leading us and where God is leading the church. We aren’t the first to seek God’s help during a time of great upheaval and confusion. Isaiah describes his relationship with God, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Ezekiel, in his vision of calling, he heard the voice of God coming behind him. “The Spirit lifted me up, and I heard from behind me a loud rumbling sound – May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place!” (Ezekiel 3:12). May we feel the Spirit lifting us up. May we take comfort that Christ guides us along our way. May we feel God’s protection and believe in Christ’s power to save. May we hear the loud rumbling sound of God behind us as we worship and find ourselves on holy ground.