God Cares for Us Despite Ourselves
A shepherd is a caretaker for creatures that are utterly incapable of caring for themselves. Sheep will wander, even away from the safety of the flock. Sheep do not drink from running water like a river because they may fall in and get swept away by the current. Sheep have no self-defense against their many predators. Without a shepherd, their lives are constantly in danger.
This psalm is more about God than it is about us. We have a God that loves us as a shepherd loves their sheep. God guides us patiently as we wander aimlessly, slow to follow, and clueless as to where we should go. God provides everything that we need, even as we lament that God hasn’t given us everything that we want. God shows us where the green pastures and still waters lie, even when we desire to venture onto sheer cliffs and into raging rivers. God cares for us despite ourselves.
Some time ago I lived in angst and fear that I would make the wrong life choices. I believed God had a plan for me, but I did not believe that I would make the right decisions to lead me down that single path. Then a wise companion asked me, “Do you really think there is only one right path for you? And if you choose any of the paths before you, do you think God will not walk with you on the path you choose?” It was obvious and simple, once they put it like that. But it helped me shake me out of a rut of paralysis I had gotten myself into. I realized that I could make any choice in the world, and God would never abandon me to my choices, bad or good. God would walk with me, guide me, prod me, correct me, but never, ever leave me. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
Narrative Lectionary Text: Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.