An Abrupt Turn

“St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” a powerful prayer attributed to Saint Patrick of Ireland, begins in this way:

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

of the Creator of creation.1

“I arise today through a mighty strength.” Oh, wouldn’t that be nice to say every morning? I want that to be true of me, but what is true for so many of us on too many mornings is “I arise today through a fog of forgetfulness.” We have to claw our way out of the cloying depths of unbelief back into the dawning light of truth and breath.

Different mornings provide alternative options of discouragement. Thoughts that frequently take our hearts captive upon arising include:

It’s going to be a bad day.

I don’t want to get up.

You are a failure as a mother, father, friend…

You do not love well.

You are alone.

You are on the outside.

You are a selfish person.

This is all too hard.

And repeat.

Do you know what yours are?

This morning, I arose through a veil of guilt and accusation. Today’s litany coming against me was a shorter version. The accuser was battering my heart with Failure. Failure. Failure.

The crushing weight of shame was reinforced by memories (cruelly twisted but seemingly real interpretations) of my failings, evidence parading across my mind that I was not being a good friend, wife, or mother.

But the prayer continues:

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.2

Wow. Well, okay then. We don’t arise through our strength to figure it out or to pull it off or to change or to become an amazing person who loves everyone at all times perfectly. We certainly don’t arise today by arguing ourselves and the oppressor of our souls out of accusation.

We arise today and every day by turning our gaze onto Jesus and what He has accomplished for us — because we needed Him to accomplish it.

We don’t arise today by our strength but by His.

We simply don’t have the capacity to get out of bed in the morning when we’re buried under a landslide of accusation and shame, the evidence of our faults piled high, ready to convict us and send us into a prison of self-loathing.

No.

While still feeling the weight of failure this morning, I turned my gaze onto my Jesus and His finished work on my behalf. I began to ask Jesus for the truth and to tell it to myself: I am not a perfect friend, but I am a good one. I fail as a wife and mother, but I am not a failure.

I took my gaze off my performance and turned it onto the King and His character: His faithfulness. His goodness. His mercy. His strength. His might.

I arise today, through

God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

From snares of devils,

From temptation of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.3

I hide myself in Him, and in Him I find my strength to rise. For He does not accuse us; He blesses us. He invites us all further up and further in to be changed into His likeness, and not to gaze at our weaknesses or fears but to gaze at Him. Perfection. Might. Our Victor. Our Savior.

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.4

This morning, like so many days in my clay-footed life, I need mercy. My Father offers it to me. Jesus has won it for me. The Holy Spirit beckons me to receive it. I need mercy, and I know it. In that knowing comes a great gift. I turn my heart again to my kind and understanding God and confess to Him that I need mercy. His answer swamps my heart with a too-good-to-be-true reality that leads to a crumbling of hopelessness and shame. My self-loathing collapses into His love. My self-condemnation melts into His arms that welcome and soothe. I have blown it. The blowing now has become the wind of the Holy Spirit. Ruah is here. His breath shepherds my heart into my Father’s, and there mercy triumphs over judgment. I may stay in bed a bit longer, but now it is not out of despair. Now I cozily snuggle into His forgiveness, His love, His heartbeat of hope.

The turning of my heart from lies to truth can happen as quickly as whiplash. It is the good kind, the kind that brings life. Sometimes I am not strong enough to orchestrate it, but our God is stronger. Always. And for that I am defiantly joyful. He invites us all to make the turn, and when we look to Him, He gives us the power to do it. We can have hope, no matter if we wake to accusation or to celebration, because our God is with us.

  1. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” Our Catholic Prayers, last modified 2018, http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/st-patricks -breastplate.html.
  2. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”
  3. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”
  4. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”

Excerpted with permission from Defiant Joy by Stasi Eldredge, copyright Stasi Eldredge.

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Your Turn

Let’s take the discouragement that wakes with us and taunts us and take an abrupt turn away from it! Like St. Patrick we can pray Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me. He has covered us! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!


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Stasi Eldredge

A teacher and conference speaker, Stasi Eldredge leads the women’s ministry of Ransomed Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God. She is the coauthor of Captivating and Love & War with her husband, John. Her books have sold nearly 3 million copies. Stasi loves the joy and freedom that come from knowing Jesus and longs to see others come to know him more deeply. She also loves getting lost in a good novel; walking in the woods near her home in Colorado Springs; and sharing life with her family, her friends, and her God.

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