In case you didn't know, I can be proud at times. (Shocker, right?) The other week this not so pretty trait came out, and the Lord dealt with it in a tender and gracious way. I'd like to share if you have time for a story.
The story begins with the children in our church. God has been prompting one of the ladies teaching children's church to lead our kids in learning a passage of Scripture. Psalm 23 was chosen. So I found myself spending a lot of time the last few weeks thinking about how best to help kids understand Psalm 23 and also how to tuck those precious words in their hearts.
But I must make a confession. When I think of Psalm 23 my mind calls it by an alternative title I've made up, "The Death Psalm". My early experiences with relatives passing away always had this Psalm connected to it. Either it was read in a service. Or it was printed on the back of a card. I am sure you know what I am talking about. And so the Death Psalm rattled in my head, even as the uncertainties of what that first round of chemo would bring rattled in my stomach. I chuckled to the Lord and thought, "Great. You sure do have a sense of humor, Lord. I am facing this and you want me to think about death. Couldn't you have prompted a different Psalm? I mean even if you wanted to talk to them about sheep could we have used Psalm 100? It's happier." Then the pride became even bolder. "You aren't going to use this Psalm to speak to me. Are you?"
Thankfully, God didn't just slap me there or say, "Nope. I'm not going to talk with you. Not now. Not ever." Instead he helped me organize a disastrous lesson. I say disastrous only because as I studied the Psalm and facts about sheep and their shepherds there was so much to share with the kids. So much that spoke to my heart about how needy we as people are for God to care for us, provide for us, and guide us. And of course when I say we, God was speaking to ME about MY NEED for Him and His promise to provide. The lesson was a little heavy on facts and less on the movement needed for young bodies. We took a long time searching for lost sheep that were bearing our facts, so we never got to the cool game that came after sharing our facts and talking about how they might help us understand Psalm 23 better. But again, God is kind, because the next week their wonderful teacher took another look at the Psalm and started planting the seeds of it in their hearts and minds. And then I had the opportunity this week for a take two and was able to play the cool game and witness them learning these words and thinking about how they might apply to them. He is speaking and we are listening.
But I want to take you one more layer into the story to where this really applies to me. See Wednesday night after my chemo, I woke in the middle of the night and I didn't feel well. Fear gripped me. It gripped me in a way I hadn't experienced before. I wouldn't go so far to say it was a shadow of death fear, but it was a dark valley fear. And I cried. I wish I could say I cried out to the Shepherd and immediately had my fears turned to faith. I cried feeling my weakness and my need. I cried feeling the thinness of health. I cried to my husband for help in managing the physical unwellness and for reassurance that I was not alone and for encouragement that I could handle this. There's nothing wrong in crying to my husband, but I must confess I wish my first reaction would have been to cry to my Shepherd and to focus on these words and to walk in confidence. I wish I could have felt as confident about how God was using this to bring glory to His name, to mold me in His image, and for good. I doubted. I feared.
With the turning of the night's darkness into light also came the turning of my focus back to the Shepherd. And in a few days I found myself looking at the words of Psalm 23 with new understanding and a humbled heart. I resolved to turn to these words next time and to let them carry me to the arms of the Shepherd. I began to think of them not so much as the Death Psalm, but as the Abundant Life Psalm that goes along with the Good Shepherd of John 10. And I spent some time worshipping the Good Shepherd who has authority over all things, including this little lamb's life.
If you haven't read Psalm 23 recently, take a moment to do so. Maybe there is something there that He wants to speak to you about.