The pastures I’m walking these days feel brown and prickly, full of briars and sandspurs. Dirt and mulch invade my shoes and the stagnant simmer of death and decay itches to my bones.
And oh, the list is ever so long in my mind of all I lack.
I’m far from the lush landscape outlined in David’s 23rd Psalm. I’m exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – the weight of trials and failures overtaking my existence. There is so much for which I long, yet do not have, and my heart is sick.
But then I turn around, proverbially in my mind, and I see that my shepherd is in the next pasture over. No, he didn’t leave me behind, he didn’t abandon me; it was my own fruitless wandering that wound me in this desolate place, my soul worn and weary from trying to avert dangers and discomforts on my own.
And while it may seem that laying down in his green pasture is a complacent withdraw from all that I aspire to achieve, the reality is it’s a melding of my aspirations with his promises. Because, on my own, it’s briars and sandspurs and that nasty soot dirt that slips through your fingers and leaves behind this tinted stain. There is no fulfillment there.
As long as I continue to strive and strain and forge my own path, if I continue this maddening attempt to be my own shepherd, there is no rest; there is no peace.
So I return – not in a saunter or trot, but this sheep bleats for reconciliation and sprints with all four legs bleeding and full of briars in earnest reunion.
And he makes me lie down in green pastures, to rest and recover, and he leads me beside quiet waters, and he refreshes my soul.
For it’s here, at the feet of my shepherd, that my soul finds rest. Though lions and bears and wolves gnash their teeth, though darkness falls, I have no fear. Though deadlines loom and illness strikes and it seems all I touch is failing, my cup overflows; my heart threatens to burst at the seams.
And it’s here, in the most perplexing of states, that I find true peace, in discipline and trial and danger. There is comfort in the struggle.
He will lead me “along the right paths,” and while those paths will take me through “the darkest valley,” it will not be for waste. The trials of the day will be worth it.
In the midst of this struggle, the daily grind of life and all that comes my way, he prepares a feast in my honor, right in the face of my enemies. He bestows honor upon my head. Love and goodness and mercy surround me endlessly.
The grass is lush beneath my feet, a soft retreat for my tired limbs. The air is crisp and cool and refreshing, aromatic with blossoms and sunshine. My soul reclines in speechless wonder. Oh praise be to God, my shepherd and protector, for this gift for which there are not adjectives enough.
My mind can think of not one thing I lack.