I had a very uptight, clenchy day at work today. Most days at work are like that for me. I come out of work sore, stiff and tired. I am busy all day, and yet when it is over I can’t decide if my physical discomfort is from sheer exhaustion or from inactivity. And then today I stepped out the door, out from under the fluorescent lights and into the sunshine, and I knew the answer. I needed to run.
Some days I have to make myself run. Some days my body cries out to me to let it run. This was one of those days. So when I got home from my commute I suited up and headed outside. Our babysitter graciously agreed to stay an extra 40 minutes, a priceless gift.
It was hot out today, but there was a nice breeze to take the edge off. And as I ran, I found myself savoring the little patches of shade along the road that would crop up every now and then, as I passed beneath trees. It was at least 5 degrees cooler in the shade, and it felt like a treat, every single time. I found myself slowing my pace a little in the shady parts, just to savor it a moment longer.
It reminded me of something I heard in church a little while back. We were studying about the desert, and how God provided for the needs of His people in big and small ways, even in the harsh Palestinian desert. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:
“The Lord watches over you–
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”
I have no trouble picturing a big, lusciously shady spot. My husband bought me a big hammock last week and hung it up in the shadiest part of our yard, slung between our biggest tree and the kid’s swing set. It is the perfect place because, no matter where the sun is in the sky, it is always cool and protected from the sun’s rays. This is the sort of place I call to mind when I read Psalm 121.
However, I learned that in the desert lands of the Bible, shade tended to be scarce. It is more likely that the shade the Psalmist was referring to was a much smaller patch of shade under a broom tree. A broom tree is more of a shrub than a tree, in fact, but commonly found in Middle Eastern deserts. So when the Psalmist speaks of the “shade at your right hand”, he is literally saying that the shade is just enough to cover him and his outstretched arm. Just enough to give him a little break from the harsh desert sun.
Just enough of a reprieve from the harsh fluorescent office lights and the daily grind so I can breathe again.
I remember us talking about how sometimes God uses other people to be shade in our lives. Sometimes, we get to be someone’s broom tree. Sometimes a teenage girl watches your kids for 40 minutes, so you can run off the frustrations of your day. Broom tree. Sometimes it is a quick chat with a friend who really listens or who makes you laugh. Broom tree. Sometimes it is a good book, or a good nap, or a good cup of coffee. All broom trees. The thing about broom trees is they aren’t very fancy, or very big, or even very pretty. But they are there, and they are just enough to meet the need for shade.
I spend a lot time thinking about how I don’t have enough. This is especially true when it comes to time alone. There are just not enough hours in the day to tend to my personal needs for solitude and self-care, not with a full-time job and a family depending on me. Can I start thinking of those broom trees in my path as “just enough”, instead of “not enough”?
When I got home, the babysitter and Nate were standing outside, knocking on the door. Leah had locked them out of the house on purpose, because she was mad. It would seem my time of solitude and reflection was over. And…back to the grind. The shade was nice while it lasted.