By Janel Breitenstein
I framed the prayer on my college dorm room wall, its words rolling around in my brain like stones, polishing my thoughts:
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.
It’s commonly known as the Lorica of St. Patrick, whose words I hear echoed in the modern hymn above. As a low-church Protestant, green to all liturgy, the prayer kindled fresh flame in me.
I’ve incorporated meaning around these phrases as I’ve trundled through life. I’ve pressed my knowledge of God into them like pieces of my children’s playdough now, adding to this prayer’s shape and mass.
I’ve seen Christ on my right and my left, for example, as He strategically seats me next to strangers on an airplane. I’ve studied God in the Old Testament as the One who gathers and harvests behind us, completing what He’s begun; I’ve witnessed it as He’s continued His work far after my hands have left a project. I’ve felt Christ within me as I’ve sat, bewildered, wondering what to say to a grieving friend—and suddenly, through a Power not my own, sensed the right words forming in my mouth. He’s been with me as I lay down, fitful and shaken after a robbery, folding me in tranquil sleep. I’ve seen Christ as I arise in the pink of a hundred African dawns, with birds’ wings audibly flapping above me.
He has been among me—is, as the hymn intones, among us. And so this hymn’s line resonates through my life, from my first breath to my last, as it wraps around who God is: Love incarnate hold Your children/till the storm of life is past.
He has been all these things in these seasons to me, and it makes my worship full and sweet. Who has He been in yours? And, today, in what aspects of your life do you long for more of His presence?