I finally read through the Bible in one year (a year and a week) when I was 39 years old. It is fascinating to read through the Bible so quickly. I felt so empowered. I felt so spiritual, so cool. It was amazing to see the patterns and over arching themes in God’s story.
This year, 18 months later, I feel as though the Lord has parked me in one place for the past seven months. I feel so uncool. I feel so unspiritual. Not only have I been reading the same chapter of the Bible for the past seven months, it has been Psalm 23–a passage I have read my entire life. At first it felt like eating baby food every day. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” Like Ferris Bueler’s teacher, sometimes this passage seems to drone on because I’ve heard it so many times. Yada, yada, yada…
Then little by little I started to listen to the Holy Spirit. This age old poetry began sink in and change me. I helped my kids memorize it (aka, so that I could memorized it too). There is something so powerful about memorizing scripture. It nearly always leads me to meditating on it. I think it about over and over again and it takes different forms in my mind.
At first I heard “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” as a promise of provision. If God is taking care of me, I’ll have everything I need. That idea alone is powerful.
Next it was declaration of contentment…”The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I am grateful for what I have. I won’t live with the insatiable need for more things because my Shepherd is seeing to my needs and fills up my heart. I’ve decided. I am satisfied. He is generous.
Many months later as our family was spending several weeks in Switzerland and I was trying to memorize Psalm 23 in my meager French. As I practiced with a friend, I accidentally left out that powerful little pronoun “my”. L’Eternal est berger. “Non,” She said, “L’Eternal est mon berger.” Each word is critical. The Lord is MY shepherd. Sure, he is a shepherd. He is even the shepherd, but is He my shepherd?
With the word “my” that simple little phrase becomes personal. First, I think of it as a declaration of submission. The Lord is my shepherd. I’m coming under his leadership. I will let him take care of me. I will let him show me the way. I’m joining His flock.
Next, I see it as Him reaching out to me. Not just to the whole church, but to me personally. The scripture is declaring that He is a personal God. He is interested and cares deeply for me as an individual. This psalm is full of personal pronouns. “I”, “my”, “me”. This chapter tells a very personal story. He makes me lie down… He leads me…Even though I walk… Even though this is one of the most famous and familiar passages of scriptures, it is intensely intimate.
My second French discovery came when I was trying to understand the French translation I was using. In English we usually say, “I shall not want.” In French it read “Je ne manquerai de rien.” As I looked up the verb, I discovered that it was translated “I miss nothing.”
Missing things. I read that word and it was as if I could see in slow motion all the fears I’ve had about missing things. Did I miss God’s call on my life? Am I too late? The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing. Am I missing my chance to make an impact in the world by giving up my career to be a full-time mom and wife? The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing. Did I miss my post-college chance to travel through Europe by train? The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing. Have a researched enough about schools or curriculum for kids? Did I make the right choice? Am I missing any information I really need? The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing. What about my relationship with God? Have a read enough? Did I fast enough? Is there something else I should be doing to draw closer to Him? The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing. Every regret. Every fear about missing my best life, or the best life for my kids is put to rest with this declaration: The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing.
He has taken care of all of it. He is big enough to make up for whatever I have overlooked. He is generous. Dreams I’d given up on to get married and have kids are coming back around. When I finally got to “do Europe” by rail, it was with my sweet husband and my wonderful children. It was better. I miss nothing. If I really need to know something, my Shepherd will let me know. If there is a dream tucked in my heart somewhere, He knows my heart-cry. My sacrifice is cherished. He loves to fulfill our hearts’ desire.
Do you ever feel jealous of someone for a wonderful experience they get to have? Do you ever feel like you are missing out? The Lord is your Shepherd too, you miss nothing. His plan for you is generous. His plan for you is right. You miss nothing. Sometimes you have to wait, but when the Lord brings the dream about, His version is better.
I remember during the 5 years I was nearly continually pregnant, I constantly felt like I was missing things: waterskiing, down hill skiing, roller coasters…. “I can’t, I’m pregnant.” It is so strange how one of the dearest dreams of my heart being fulfilled can still make me feel like I’m missing out. Self pity is such a thief. So much to be grateful for. Yet, it is easy to feel like you are some how getting a raw deal.
Now, over 12 years since my first pregnancy I realize how fast it all goes. 5 years of no roller coasters. There is still so much more life ahead of me, with nothing to stop me from riding Space Mountain. Be patient. There is so much time. The Lord is your Shepherd, you miss nothing. It will come in time. Your career. All those quiet times you missed because of sleepless nights. The adventure you were hoping for. The Lord is Your Shepherd, you miss nothing.
As I reflect on that initial phrase, The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, it now seems full of faith. What a bold declaration! I shall not want! I shall not be in want! I am content! I miss nothing! My Shepherd has it all covered.
Seven months on one chapter. Sometimes it is good to let the Word go deep in our hearts. It is the opposite experience from zipping through the whole Bible that quickly. It seems so rudimentary, like I’m missing out on some great revelation in some profound far reaching Bible Study. But wait, The Lord is my Shepherd, I miss nothing.