Monday, October 6, 2008

I Be Besetted

Sitting in an airplane on a tarmac in Munich, Germany, I was surrounded by people who didn't look like me or talk like me. The pilot announced over the intercom something that sounded like this: "Altoids! Vos splikken goose veetlejuice unz snitzer splat Sarajevo!" Half the passengers gasped at the announcement.

The pilot repeated the message in a second language that sounded something like this: "Palsja! Sapna skendervakuv trebinje adidas soj deanmartin llickaroach vunt Sarajevo!" The other half of the passengers gasped.

I waited for the pilot to key up the mic again and report the news to his one or two english-speaking captives. The mic finally keyed up, then a muffled scratching noise, then...elevator music. Elevator music? (Picture a rubber band wrapped around the key button on the mic handle of a cb radio, leaning against a small transistor radio...and you get the idea.)

After several agonizing minutes, a stewardess saw the look on my American face and was apparently fluent in perplexity. She shuffled to the front of the airplane and spoke to the captain on her cb radio. A few seconds later, the elevator music ended, the muffled scratching noise resumed, and the pilot struggled with his unrehearsed translation in english: "Attention! We have been strictly warned not to continue with this flight and denied permission to fly safely into Sarajevo." I gasped.

Two minutes later, without a word from the pilot (in any language), we taxied down the runway, and took off! We were in the air over the Balkans and none of us knew if we were flying to Sarajevo with or without clearance or if we were going to visit the pilot's in-laws in Croatia.

When Sarajevo came into view, we made our descent toward the airport. The runway was lined on both sides with a welcoming committee of tanks spread out about fifty yards apart. Before I prepared to meet my Maker, I noticed that the tanks' gun barrels were all pointed away from the runway. Whew!

We landed safely. I looked out the window and saw thirty or forty military personnel holding weapons. Before I asked for a cigarette and a blindfold, I noticed their formation. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder in two lines, making a walkway from the steps of the airplane to the door of the airport. They were there as human shields to protect us from sniper fire.

I was surrounded by people with guns and tanks, and it was humbling. There stood men willing to take a bullet for people they knew nothing about.

Being surrounded is not always such a bad thing. Psalm 139:5 in the King James Version says,
"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me."

"Beset" has two possible meanings. It can mean "perplexed or harassed." But its deepest meaning is "to surround." Watch how the translators captured the meaning of this word:

New King James - "hedged"
New International -
New American Standard -

They all tell me the same thing: I am surrounded by God. Not only does God surround me, He's close enough to touch me.
"...laid thine hand upon me."

Your stereo and entertainment center may have "surround sound." But your God has soundly surrounded you with His love, mercy, and power.

Gladly Surrendering to His Surrounding,
Perry Crisp

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