One of the benefits of growing older is that our understanding of scripture passages can deepen. Psalm 23 has always been one of my favorite passages. I have written often about its meaning to me on this blog. But a sleepless night recently produced new blessings from those old words. The backdrop for these new understandings is Eugene Peterson’s sermon “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10). After explaining that a good shepherd knows his sheep personally, Peterson says:
“Jesus knows his own. He knows our names. He knows our needs. He sees us as wonderfully complex creations of the living God. He sees us having the imprint of God in us. We are not pawns moved around on a chessboard . . . . We are each uniquely and infinitely worth knowing” (As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire).
And so I looked again at Psalm 23 through Peterson’s prism:
The Lord is my shepherd. He knows me by name, not just as a sheep in his flock. He sees that I have value and possibility. He cares for me in the same way that a good shepherd cares for his sheep. He cares that I am fed and healthy. He cares that I am safe, not lost. He understands that I need rest and restoration. He shows me the Way and prods me if I choose another way.
Now, as I face the end of my journey in this life, he walks by my side, bringing peace and calmness with his presence. In the reality of questions with no answers and fears never before faced, he reminds me that his well of provision and comfort is always full. I am encouraged to draw from it on my journey from this kingdom to the next. He helps me make peace with my wounded heart and my broken relationships. He teaches me that even my less-than-perfect way of being me in his world has resulted in a meaningful legacy.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”