When I learned to read at 6 years old, my proud grandparents celebrated my newly acquired skill by giving me my very own red leather Bible. A Christmas gift offered with a reverence and a respect that I had already learned from both of them. They were so delighted with me and their offering brought me into a circle of knowledge and spiritual connection that they had both known their entire lives. I treasured this gift, willingly shared from the depths of their hearts.
My Father, always the one to encourage expansion, suggested that I work on memorizing a Psalm to be recited after Church one Sunday to Dr. Marsh, my favorite minister. Every Sunday he greeted me with a warm hug and a query about school. My Father said Psalm 23 was Dr. Marsh’s favorite. I began diligently to memorize, stumbling over words like anointest and righteousness. Big words for a six year old. But finally after much practice, I was ready.
Saturday night was always a little of a to-do as my Mom would wash my hair and my sister’s, roll it all in pink sponge curlers in anticipation of dressing up for Sunday church. I was anxious that everything go well the following day so I paid extra attention to the preparations. My sister and I often had matching dresses and always white patent leather dress shoes after Easter and black after Labor Day. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that not only did my Mom love to dress us, she also always wanted to make sure that the doctor’s daughters were adorably attired as we always garnered much attention from the church ladies.
I remember now that I sat through an entire church service, feet swinging, nervousness held just barely at bay as I repeated my piece over and over again in my head. Finally, all was at an end and my Father took my hand, smiled and asked if I was ready. I swallowed, nodded and off we went in search of Dr. Marsh. He greeted me as always and when he heard my Father’s explanation, he smiled and squeezed my hand, looking expectantly, waiting. And I began, “The Lord is my shepherd…” I think I got everything in and in the right order. Dr. Marsh was delighted and impressed and appreciative. The glow in my Dad’s eye was wonderful as well.
Flash Forward to Ten Years Ago
Psalm 23 has come in and out of my life, appearing at unexpected moments for many unanticipated reasons. About ten years ago, I stumbled across a book Two Suns Rising in which the author, Jonathan Star, offered modern translations of sacred texts including Psalm 23. I was in the midst of researching my first book, The New Akashic Records. Though personally I felt in crisis as I was struggling to make sense of my life and feel comfortable with the path that even in my resistance had decisively chosen me.
Reading this translation added a subtle harmony to the version I memorized so long ago. A door opened and I felt conflict within ease away. I think for the first time I brought the truth of the Psalm into me rather than seeing it as an external experience. And maybe that was possible if only because I was older and had obviously garnered much more life experience since I was six. Whatever the reason, the intertwined two resolved the struggle within on a level that surprised me.
The very first words of Psalm 23 had always confused me. I don’t want the Lord as my shepherd? I compared the two versions, letting each sing to me the depth of their messages. And slowly the song unfolded for me.
I had always thought of the shepherd as a person. But instead, these words newly considered helped me see that I didn’t want to feel closed in and lead by whatever feels untruthful and outside of me.
Yet it is in the spiritual connection within that I find the green pastures and the still waters. Spirit dwells within and restores the deepest sense of self, my soul. And it is in this connection with the divine that I find the ability to live without fear and without worry for the journey of my life. Within deep source I find in myself all that I need. And in my opening to the depths of this eternal boundlessness, I touch the awareness that this shall always be so, infinitely and eternally. I am always in the keeping awareness of the transcendent source of All That Is.
Flash Forward Again to Now
Last weekend, as I hiked through an incredibly beautiful forest with not another person in sight, I felt led to the green and the still. The words of Psalm 23 rose from my heart and I thought of my six-year-old self and my now mid-50s self. I was awed by the spirit of connection around me. My foot on the ground was assurance of my ability to be in this world filled with hope and comfort and without fear. My awareness brought love to my heart from the trees along my path and a huge moss-covered guardian boulder reached out to comfort me. I was touched and I overflowed. I was anointed by the goodness of nature. And was gently reminded that my vulnerable willingness to step into uncertainty was the balanced source of my resiliency.
And then with several miles left to go, I was pushed to the brink of the anger that had built within me as I struggled to keep up with the group. My frustration bubbled over, my fear poked and I let go in a huge, terrified, angry scream of defiance and release. I could not keep it in and maybe for one of the first times in my life I didn’t turn the anger on myself, accepting blame and self-imposed derision. I had battled all day not to lose myself, to stay with my small steps, and go with what was in the moment. But sometimes that is just too hard and too scary and too lonely and just toooo….
Why in this moment, this? Why? And all I can say: sometimes that’s just the way it is. Pulled from one side to another, shaken not stirred, as whatever no longer serves is poked and prodded and pushed out. The highs and the lows serving as contrasts to point the direction toward the center of balance and clear awareness. I haven’t screamed like that in a very long time. Yet I was honest with myself about what I was feeling, not allowing myself to pretend it wasn’t important. Because it was important and the lack of pretense altered me.
When I drink of the still waters and the green pastures, I am filled with life. And sometimes life isn’t pretty or easy or convenient. Sometimes the journey of life feels like it goes through a valley of the shadow of death. And I think that is what I did, I released a shadow within, there on that mountainside. Restoring me to me, and me to soul, and me to essence, and me.
I know not exactly where my path will lead from this moment forward, but I am willing to venture out. I am not alone for the Lord is my shepherd and I am filled and overflowing.
|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 paths of righteousness
For his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff,
They comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest 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 forever.
|The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He brings me to where the grass is green
and leads me to where the waters are still.
I drink – and I am filled with life!All I do is call out His Name and the right path appears before me.
Even though I walk through this world,
where the shadow of death falls on everyone,
I fear no harm – for He is always with me,
His staff is always ready to protect me.
In this place filled with hunger the Lord has
spread out a table of delights and
bathed my head in scented oil.
My heart is filled with His Love;
Goodness and Purity will follow me every day of my life.Although appearing like others,
I do not live in this world of men:
I live in the Lord’s house and am forever in His keeping.
Revised Standard Version
|Translated by Jonathan Star
Two Suns Rising, page 78