Let me get all King James on you:
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
I know. We have lots of translations/versions of Holy Scripture. I also know that King James wasn’t as much a rip-roaring Christian as he was a politician who wanted to get the Puritans off his back; that’s why he financed what became the common translation for 300 years.
For me, poetic passages read and resonate best in what some would call the flowery language of the Golden Age of Britain. I have heard this particular passage quoted by my grandfather and my grandmother on ancient reel-to-reel tapes (Google it). It is a common section of scripture to memorize and read, especially at funerals. It is a psalm that reminds us of God’s comfort and care. There are the pastoral images of a shepherd (rod and staff); physical care (food and water); and the eternal destination for God’s child.
And, one of the Bible’s numerous references to FEAR. Holy Scripture is full of commands and directions to help us through life. The most common, you may know, is NOT “love thy neighbor” or “love God” or “give to the poor.” It is “Fear Not.”
Why would God, through inspired writers, tell us, so often, that we are not to fear? Might it be that, when it’s all said and done, FEAR is our greatest weakness?
Occasionally a friend will confess, “I’m afraid of…” and it’s been really easy for me to say, “Fear is not of God. If you recognize the emotion of fear, it’s coming from the other camp.”
But when fear grips me, then I need to cling to my Shepherd.
A friend recently said to me, “You know, this is where you are right now. The valley of the shadow of death.” She went on to remind me that we all travel through this valley.
And we are to fear no evil because the Shepherd is there with His rod and staff, both tools to keep the sheep on the safe path and away from those cliffs, ledges and ravines. His presence is our security.
We know this is true. We have experienced the Shepherd’s care before. This is not the first trip through this valley for Mike and me.
In August 1978, we lost our first child, a full term beautiful little boy named Nathan. He died just before his birth. Back then, it was not routine to monitor pregnant ladies so the fact that he was in distress was missed. Doctors determined that he had suffered from anoxia, a lack of oxygen.
Although there was a twilight zone quality to the recovery room… “What funeral home shall we call?” “Do you want an autopsy?” …God was there with us. I had visited a friend whose son had also been oxygen-deprived but he had survived. Physically strong, he has the body of a man and the mind of an infant. They care for him at home and, I know, they love him as much as they can. I also know that God gives us grace to handle the handle the trials in our lives.
This boy’s face filled my mind as I rested in recovery.
I’m confident that if our son had survived, God would have helped us live that life. But as there are choices in reproduction, I’m guessing there would not have been an Allyson or Zachary. And as dark as those times were for us, God has blessed us with two really terrific children.
Both of our fathers have passed away and although we grieved, it was nothing like the pain of burying your child. And that pain never goes away; it lessens, it becomes a scar that you live with, but it takes little remembrance to bring the tears.
I recall a drawing that hung on many Sunday School classrooms when I was small. It depicted Anglo Jesus as The Good Shepherd. He has picked up a lamb and is walking with it curled around his neck.
So now we are walking through that valley again. Our Shepherd is near and we will stay close. I wonder. Can He carry two lambs? These two lambs are weary.