Psalm 23

I have been reading the Psalms and Gospels lately, looking both to deepen my roots in the Scriptures and begin my days with quiet attention again. Life in family of six, filled with businesses and homeschooling and puppy training and meal making and community relationships is busy. Add email notifications and social medias and group texting in the mix, and I’m easily sucked into what the writer Linda Stone referred to as “continuous partial attention.” It’s the modern dilemma, one I’ve been mulling over quite a bit this year.

Sometime last week, I read Psalm 23––words so familiar I could recite them, and yet still they smacked fresh in my soul. I read it again and then again, each time drawn to that first line and the semi-colon right in the middle:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

I have a thing for semi-colons. I know it’s a bit ridiculous, but I do. In terms of style, they’re one of the more powerful marks in the English language in my opinion, a sublime connection of two separate and complete thoughts. They’re gentle and mysterious, a fingerprint of the writer’s nuance, a nudge to read again. Here, one thought points to God’s protecting and providing care; the other is a truth about my human condition. God cares for me, for us, with the most perfect care and timing, we lack nothing––a truth even when my circumstance and emotions tell me otherwise.

I remember as an older teen doing a study of shepherds and this Psalm, learning more about the detailed and perilous job of a shepherd, understanding how simple this parallel is for a shepherd-king to write about God our Shepherd-King. He leads us to rest and righteousness. He comforts and restores us. He protects us. He invites us to his table. He invites us into his home to dwell with him. The simplicity is beautiful yet still easy for me to miss in application.

But what if I actually believed this truth in my daily living? What if I let these words on printed page steep more deeply in my day as a wife, a mother, a friend, an educator, a writer, a business owner, a sometimes weary or despairing soul? What if God is my Shepherd even when my bank account is empty or when a friend wrestles with sickness or when my children are hurting or when dreams still linger unrealized? What if He’s true when political systems are broken and confusing, when families tear apart, when fear and hateful thoughts are given more media than hope, when people everywhere are hurting? What if, instead of anxious thoughts or fear or frantic working, my thoughts turned toward that intrinsic connection of two truths: God is my shepherd; I shall not want.  

The last week, I have tried to do something a little different when I have sensed negative emotions or thoughts rise within me for whatever reason. It’s not perfect or a fix-all, but it has been helpful in directing my thoughts toward what is true, even when it doesn’t feel true.

Pause.

Draw in a deep breath.

Exhale slowly.

Pray into Psalm 23, something like this:

God, you are my Shepherd King, my rest and righteousness. I am not afraid of the evil in the world, or even the evil that comes against my home, for you are here right now with me, protecting. I am not afraid of want for I know you will provide. My cup overflows at your table. You are good and merciful, and your goodness and mercy will follow me every day to the end. Let your goodness and mercy rise like a flood in our home, in our neighborhood, in our city, pouring out goodness and mercy generously into all the earth. Amen. 

It’s often been simple and brief, something that has unfolded in the midst of my day, while cleaning out my closet, emailing, running with the dog, or making dinner with the kids. It may sound or come about in a different process for you, as it should, but it’s not about perfection or performance. For me, it’s about finding a sense of rest and hope right in the tension of two thoughts, much like that small semi-colon. Be encouraged.

15 replies
  1. Rebekah
    Rebekah says:

    Just came across this at the end of a long day needing some encouragement to rest and trust in his righteousness and goodness in the midst of the chaos. Thank you for beautifully wording these truths and encouraging my heart. xoxo

    Reply
  2. Mary
    Mary says:

    Thank you, Bethany for sharing this comforting post! I believe God truly does lead us and led me to happen upon your uplifting words at this opportune time. Also, I have always been intrigued with semi-colons and happen to have a bracelet with a semi-colon charm. Many blessings to you and your family. Mary💗

    Reply
  3. Jessica D.
    Jessica D. says:

    I was reading scriptures and encouraging stories within my emails, when this post popped up in my inbox right when I was about to log out! I immediately clicked on over to read. And wow. God truly leads you where He wants you, and He definitely led me to your post Bethany. Thank you for your beautiful words. Also, in regards to the semicolon aspect–that truly struck me because recently my two sisters and I got project semicolon tattoos as we are all walking along our own difficult journeys at the present moment of our lives. I do not believe in coincidences. I believe things are meant to be, I believe God IS our shepherd and leads us along on the path He wants us to go on being ever watchful, so we do not need to want as you said above. He absolutely led me to your post for this exact moment in my life and I am grateful, and humbled by that. Thank you again Bethany, and many blessings to you & yours!! 🙂

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Semi-colon tattoos! What are the odds? What an encouragement to hear we’re learning similar truths in different ways right now. Thank you for taking the time to share, Jessica. x

      Reply
  4. Joy
    Joy says:

    favorite post ever. I was led to the green pastures of this post when I really needed to read it. walking through a valley right now, but feeling my soul refreshed by your words… His Words. Thank you. I also have a thing for semi-colons. 🙂

    Reply
      • Bethany
        Bethany says:

        I was so encouraged to read both of your comments, to hear my vulnerability somehow resonated with and refreshed you both in some way today. Thank you for sharing. xo

        Reply

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