4th Sunday of Lent: A Personal Reflection on Psalm 23
One of the texts for this Sunday (Revised Common Lectionary) is Psalm 23. As I read through this text slowly, listening for what God, the Holy Spirit, would bring to my attention, the words, “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1) stick with me. I pause and the words begin to echo in my consciousness;
“I shall not want, I shall not want, I shall not want…”
Suddenly, with each echo, the words begin producing a myriad of messages illuminating innumerable needs within my soul.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Even before beginning this reading, I was presented a question; “Where in the past few days, have you felt ill at ease?”
Honestly, that question was like releasing a ton of bricks on me. The realization of my needs come to me in the form of another question; “Where have I not felt ill at ease?” I respond, “let me count the ways.”
Most of where I live in Washington State is in varying degrees of lockdown due to a global pandemic. This is certainly not news, but for the sake of my journal, I’m providing context. Life on earth is interrupted at this moment. How can we not—how can I not—feel ill at ease?
Still, in the midst of these unprecedented and uncertain days, God reminds me; “I shall not want.” And I want to respond to Jesus, “Will you please just knock it off?” I don’t need to be patronized at this moment, least of all by the Supreme Creator of all things. What I need is understanding, empathy, and consolation. So, Jesus, please just stop with the Scripture cliches.
And yet, on it goes; “He makes me lie down” (Psalm 23:2). My angst and my internal frustration ramp up further. When I dig in and explore the source of my feeling ill at ease, one thing that I sense rising to the surface is this issue of control.
I’ve long realized that control is an illusion. This illusion is a slippery adversary though, he constantly nudges himself back into my psyche, fueling my pride to say, “Look at how far you’ve come, Jeff, you’ve got a great handle on stuff. You’re really in control of this situation and in control of your future.” And me, full of gullibility and yearning for accolades of my greatness, swallows that flirtatious line. Every. Time. And then there’s this pandemic. Actually, more like pandemonium.
I am an introvert. I have long had a dream of how awesome it might be to engage the life of a hermit…at least the life of a hermit sort of. I like how I imagine hermitude or hermitage. See, I would set the parameters on what it would look like and I would be the architect of my schedule as well as how limiting my lifestyle would ultimately be engaged. The last thing I really want is someone or some invisible force dictating what I can or cannot do should the urge strike me to change my lifestyle or levels of comfort in any way. I want to be in control of who comes or goes or who I see or do not see. I like whatever comfort I want or need to be within my grasp. I like strategizing with known variables. I do not like being out of control, ever; even if control is an illusion, I want the illusion. I need the illusion to help my world make sense.
Still, there is more to explore.
I recognize my anxiety and agitation, but what do I do with this awareness. Jesus speaks again;
“He [God] revives my soul” (Psalm 23:3). How!?!
The thing that would revive me, at least presently, would be for everything to go back to the way it was—restore my illusion of control—and let me have the sense that I have given all things over to the providence of God…even if I really have not and be able to feel good about all that. I don’t like a “rod” or “staff” looming over me (Psalm 23:4) and do not find that thought comforting at all. I find a rod and staff over me quite threatening if I am honest. So, I ask; “How are you going to revive my soul, Lord?”
I love God. I love Jesus. I love the Holy Spirit. I love the teaching of God. I love the promises of God for His Eternal Kingdom. I look forward, at least in idea and theory, to this “table spread before me” (Psalm 23:5). I smile and enjoy the thought of God anointing me and filling my cup full to overflowing (Psalm 23:5). But I don’t like my current circumstances or how I feel right now, not one teensy tiny bit. And now, a new Echo, announces itself in my consciousness.
Be here; Be now.
Hah! This is a word that has been ringing in my heart for many days now. As my lament and the inner conversation continue—as God has allowed my soul to vent without judgment—I am hearing the invitation.
Let go; Be here. Be now. Be with Me.
With everything I feel, Holy Spirit comforts me. My feelings are validated and not criticized nor condemned as “unholy” or bad. In my human-ness, all that I feel is normal. This is what Holy Spirit speaks to my soul now that I have ceased talking at God. At this moment, I sense the invitation to participate not only in the humanness of Christ but to engage and participate in the Divine-ness of Christ as well. God is inviting me to transcend the boundaries of my carnal limitations and “let go” of my humanness and embrace His image within me. Embrace the divine nature that does very much dwell within me (2 Peter 1:3-4). Divinity is real. Divinity is now.
Control is a figment of the imagined yesterday or tomorrow; neither of which can exist in the now.
Be here. Be now. Be divine. Be one with the ONE. Thank you, Almighty God, for this conversation today. You are with me and You are within me. To You, be all praise and honor and glory. Amen.