Almost 20 years ago, I married a New Zealand shepherd. For real, he was raised where the rolling green meadows stretch out to the horizon and woolen white sheep dot the countryside. My first experience in New Zealand prompted a lifelong disdain for sheep.
Lambing season was in full swing. I donned coveralls and boots and jumped aboard a 4-wheeler with my new husband. With the eyes of a kind shepherd, he quickly spotted a ewe in trouble. Although bleeding heavily, she darted away from us causing her to spout blood everywhere. Andrew told me to get off the bike and jump on her back when he cornered her. I never thought to check for a smirk on my newly wed’s face.
I chased that blasted precious animal until I was covered face to feet in blood, mud, and rage. Psalm 23 suddenly held new meaning for me, and I wanted nothing to do with the shepherd analogy. Besides, it’s an outdated, overly-used psalm that inspires nonsensical commentary about dumb sheep and loving shepherds. Well, that may be a little strong, but still.
For the last several weeks I have been drawn to Psalm 23. I can’t seem to start or finish a day without the words of David traipsing along beside me. So this is the first of several posts I’d like to write about my Psalm 23 meditations.
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.”
Journal entry: June 30, 2013: “Psalm 23 has come to my attention lately. When I first saw it in a devotional book I am reading I was in Seattle and thought Really? This psalm is so clichéd. Then it seemed like God read it to me and showed me each of the ways He cares and provides for me. With Him as my shepherd I really don’t need anything else.”
Stop and sit with that for a while. The gospel is not about fixing our problems, overcoming substance abuse, or healing our broken family or marriage. John Piper has asked the question, if heaven included none of the great pleasures we envision, if it were only Jesus, would we still long to go there? A quick Christian response is “oh yes,” but think through that. Only Jesus. No streets of gold, family reunions, heavenly adventures, or cosmic cuisine, just Jesus.
I taught about this topic while in a correctional facility recently and asked the women there if they ever longed to just be with God. If there were no wish lists, no emotional highs, or healings would they ache for relationship with the Father. The room was silent. I was silent.
If the gospel is not about fixing our list of uncomfortable and broken circumstances, what is it? The gospel is about a relationship with the Father Who gave everything—that means His Son Jesus—to save us. We really don’t need any more than that. He is our Shepherd and as such we have everything.
Cleaning up our life is a good and honorable goal, but it is the result of a relationship with Him. In silence I wait for You, O Lord. You fill my emptiness. You embrace, romance, run after, and sit with us. Thank You for being our all-sufficient Shepherd.