You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139: 5 NRSV
When I first think of the word hem, I think of sewing -which I cannot do. My hems are the most uneven, sloppiest things you have ever seen. My husband sews better than I do! A good hem is tight, even, and secure.
However, most people probably think of battle - to be hemmed in by your enemy. In a more positive outlook, one could also be hemmed in by those who are fighting for you, protecting you. I often pray for others asking God to set up a protective hedge around them - a hedge that hems them in a good way.
Not only that, God lays God's hand on you. I like to think of this not in terms of punishing. Instead, I think of it in terms of guidance. However, I am very familiar with the term "laying a hand" on someone as another way of spanking or physically harming another person.
So, you could really go with this verse in a positive or a negative way. You could be hemmed in by your enemy - God - who punishes you by spanking. In that way, God is out to get you no matter what. Or, you could be protected by God's water-tight security, with God's hand on your shoulder, gently guiding you in the way you should go. Whether for punishment or guidance, it really personalizes God - gives God a body, an almost physical presence, and an incredible constancy.
Either way, God surrounds you - you cannot get around God at all. God has been with you, God is with you and God will be with you.
Thank you, God for your constant presence. May I recognize your love, grace and mercy and not see you as out to get me. Amen.