I’ve had the weirdest experience in my 40s that maybe you can relate to, perhaps you haven’t gotten that “old” yet, or it could be I’m a bit crazy. 🙂 I can’t tell you how many times a saying, an idea, a belief, a story, and so on that had become old hat, trite, cliché, irrelevant, and possibly even boring to me has all of a sudden erupted with importance, meaning, and power. This has happened a few times in recent years with Psalm 23, and the last one was SO GOOD it dropped my jaw. With that said and without further adieu here’s The Message version of Psalm 23:
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
For the rest of my life.
Right off the bat the author names God as our tender caregiver, which means we “don’t need a thing”. The more familiar translation of this is “I shall not want”. While I “knew” and had heard this phrase countless times the goodness of it never settled in. For the first “half” of my life I worked, strove, and competed for what I wanted and needed, but had a perpetual sense of unrest, lack of fulfillment, and inner angst. Yet, when instead of hustling I accept what isand “hug” reality, I discover Divine love and harmony is ever present with me and in me. Assuming our basic needs are met, what more could we want?
As I wrote the last paragraph the following occurred to me (perhaps it was even the Spirit speaking): Repeat like a mantra and let “I shall not want” sink into your soul, because it’s powerful stuff.
Have you ever known a person who was going through the worst of times with a smile and a twinkle in her/his eye? In my experience these saints are carried through their Death Valleys by a Big Bliss from God, because they feel at a cellular level that our loving Creator is with them every step of the way. When we choose to trust the Maker has rigged the universe in our favor, our fears tend to fade away and be replaced by the most excellent of inner harmonies; a divine gift if there ever was one.
I SO love the bit in this poem about God preparing and giving us a meal smack dab in the midst of our enemies. Isn’t that fantastic? First, I think it gets at how in God’s family (i.e. humanity) there are NO enemies, only friends. We see this notion modeled in the life and teachings of Jesus. A second thing I get out of this is that our heavenly Parent sees life as a grand party to which everyone is invited. While I’ll admit I’m reading this into the poem, given Jesus (again) I think it’s a faithful interpretation. What I’m getting at is it seems to me God isn’t making a feast for one person to enjoy alone in the presence of the bad guys. Instead,our Source is encouraging our opponents to come and share food, drink, and stories WITH us, wherein the walls between us can come crumbling down as we celebrate our shared humanity.
The bit that dropped my draw recently was the last part I highlighted in the text. Divine beauty and love chases every single one of us all the days of our lives. God’s beauty and love is our constant companion. As other translations say, “SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow” us “all the days” of our lives. Big beauty, extravagant Love, glorious goodness, and sweet mercy is with us every single second in every single place of our lives. Here’s to opening our minds’ eyes to see and receive it!
Grace and peace,