I love my little green Psalter. It reminds me that to be a saint and a human being [or a saint and an artist, for that matter] is not mutually exclusive. With the Psalter’s help, I can have my pick and pray any one of more than a hundred different ancient prayers anytime I choose.
And [the good news for someone like me is] they run they emotional gamut; it seems like there is a Psalm for every sentiment, a prayer that reflects every mood or experience.
But I always come back to one of the simplest, most beautiful, and most familiar:
“The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.
In a place of green pastures, there hath He made me to dwell;
Beside the water of rest He hath nurtured me.
He hath converted my soul, he hath led me on the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me.
Thou has prepared a table for me in the presence of them that afflict me.
Thou hast annointed my head with oil, and Thy cup which filleth me, how excellent it is!
And Thy mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.” – [Psalm 22 (23)]
It has been an uphill climb lately, for me, and for a lot of people around me. But this gives me so much comfort. To know I can pray with faith “He hath converted my soul”. To know that I can believe-whenever I say this prayer, and whenever else I choose to remember it-that G*d Himself has changed [and is changing] my soul. The poking and prodding of the crook is unpleasant at times. It’s unwelcome, it’s unwanted, and it seems to come from all sides. But it is keeping me on the right path. It is changing me.
One of my laments during this season of repentance is “I don’t know if I’m changing. I can’t tell if anything is really getting any better, or if I am really getting any closer to G*d.” I hope that remembering and saying this prayer will ease my distress. I am changing. And it can only be for the better. Because He Himself is the one changing me.
Easier to believe than see, granted. But then, true faith is rarely glamorous.
If G*d is changing me, then what is my responsibility? To keep near him, To not stray-in my stubbornness and shortsightedness-from His path. The Psalm reminds me He leads me to rest. He makes me lie down. He prepares a table for me. His Mercy itself chases me down.
I am beginning to see that this Psalm is perfect for my frazzled, frustrated, exhausted, confused but sincere soul, as it sits just past the middle of Lent, longing for the Feast and for New Life. I must be humble enough to accept His guidance, yes. But I cannot forget to accept His Grace and Mercy in my determination to stay on the right path.
Jesus says in John’s Gospel that the sheep will hear His voice and recognize Him, and that He will be among them and Shepherd them (John 10). It is my hope and prayer that I am learning-as I wander through what feels like a wilderness-to listen to and follow not only his discipline, but His great love,
May it go with you also.