Several years ago I was attending a Quaker meeting when a young woman stood up and began singing, slowly, the old gospel song “Down By the Riverside.”
I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside…
After singing a few lines, she spoke the first few words of the lyric, adding an emphasis that opened up the song in a new way for me. “I’m gonna lay down my sword — and shield.”
In all the years I’d sung that song I’d scarcely paid any attention to the shield part. After all, it was a song about studying war no more, and war, as we all know, is about swords.
But when she emphasized those words — “and shield” — I realized that laying down the shield is even more radical than laying down the sword, because to lay down one’s shield is to lay down one’s fear.
In truth, we rarely lay down our shield. We spend a lot of energy trying to defend ourselves against the threat of attack, whether it be of terrorists, lawsuits, or even personal embarrassment. If you start paying attention, you’ll probably notice how often you use the shield in everyday interactions. Every time you feel the impulse to defend your opinion, or your experience, or your worth you are holding forth the shield.Continue Reading