Psalm 23 - Week 10
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me
Your authority is my strength and peace – The Passion
It seems to me that there are "doubles" (two completely different ways of engaging with one word) about pretty much everything in life. I think this way about "comfort."
There's the validation piece of comfort. Someone listens compassionately to you, not to figure you out, fix you or find a point of commonality and take it back to herself or himself. We have all done these things. But compassionate listening, engaged, looking at the person, sensing their struggle, allowing yourself to be touched with the reality of it. Sitting there with another person, hearing their story and doing what we can't do much of nowadays...wrap our arms around them...maybe even cry with them. That's pretty comforting right?
Then there is a rod and staff kind of comfort...exclusively belonging to our God and expressed towards us from time to time. It's not a soft kind of comfort like validation is but if it follows the validation part, its strength and sureness bring the kind of comfort that leads us on. It’s interesting that The Passion translation calls it “authority.” Have you ever really thought of God’s “authority” bringing you strength and peace?! But it does!
I've heard that Easter Shepherds use their rods to run them over the sheep as they return to the sheep fold. As they go in, the Shepherd seeks to know if there is any troubling wound. The rod parts the wool and the Shepherd can see if the sheep has been cut from getting caught on something or has been bitten by another creature. When he sees the wound, he then applies His healing ointment.
Like you, I probably try to run past the Shepherd with the rod. I forget the rod of knowing leads to the healing ointment. I don't want my wound to be seen. I may not want to face it myself and I don't want the Shepherd to see it. Then I will have to submit to His healing of it. Strange people, aren't we? This is comfort. Jesus wants to know our hurts; He wants to part the places where we hide and draw us to Himself for the healing ointment.
Then the staff. The staff is used to direct. Go this way, not that way. How do we look at that as comfort when a lot of the time, we totally want to go the "not that way”? It's usually a way that we want to go separate from our Shepherd. He only lets us go so far and draws us back with His staff. It is a strong comfort that He will only let us go so far. It is a comfort that He actually has a way for us to go! Surely it is a comfort that He directs us in the way that will lead to life.
Sometimes I get all stuck in so many different ways to go in order to either save myself, protect myself or get what I want. The other day I sat by the front window of our house. Have you ever just sat and watched the leaves falling? I felt like it was the first time I did that. I don't know how long I sat and watched. Leaves falling, falling, and all so gracefully. The gentle repetitive falling got into me. I realized that I am falling. That it is a time for falling. Allowing things to fall away from me, allow the falling of life as I have known it. Allow the falling of things I cannot control. I went for a walk after that. Still the leaves were falling. In the forest, I finally spoke to God. "I am falling." Your staff has brought me to a place of falling. I knew He agreed and saw that I understood. Then I said, "Soon winter will come, the white snow will cover all the fallen leaves." Jesus asked me, "What does this make you think of?" "Oh, it makes me think of being purified, cleansed white as snow." It only made sense to think of Spring after the winter. "Spring always comes," I said to Jesus. He agreed.
Maybe it is a leap to draw an analogy between a sheep being directed to go into certain pastures and falling leaves! But I think His staff drew me to understand and allow Him to direct me to surrender to the falling, to the purifying, to the new life that will come. Go this way, not that way. It is comforting that His staff will lead me away from "that way" into the goodness and freedom in surrendering to the falling.
Today, can you imagine yourself "coming through the gate"? Jesus is standing there with a look of compassion towards you that shines right into your heart. He has the rod. He offers the process to you. Can you let Him pass the rod over your soul - all that you are. Where might there be a wound that He and you can look at together - where can you submit to His healing? Who knows? Maybe the healing will lead to where He is leading you to go.
Photo by Joey Genovese - Unsplashed