The Psalms are like 7up and saltine crackers when I have a stomach ache. They nourish me gently, they sustain me and they will eventually bring me back to a place where I have a greater appetite and can handle something a little spicier, like Romans or 1 Corinthians for example.
I have needed a lot of 7up and saltines recently. This past Sunday was Mothers Day..a day I have been dreading. I felt jealousy toward all of the first-time moms who were celebrating this day without a care in the world (or so it seemed to me). My emotions were raw and it was one of those days where the tears just kept welling up with wild abandon in my eyes, like no amount of self control would matter or make a difference. Because of this, the majority of the church service that morning was spent trying not to weep loudly and obviously in public (although looking back, that is what my church family is there for..) and force myself to think of all the ways that a woman can be blessed outside of the realm of motherhood.
During worship I sat with my eyes closed, just listening to the music and trying to pray and sing to Jesus, even though what I really wanted to do was indulge my self-pity and make church all about me. However, we started singing a song that noted having a “child-like faith”. This phrase gets thrown around a lot and I understood what it was saying but I never really thought about it…until this Mothers Day. What is a childlike faith? Does it mean I am to be naive and innocent? Too late for that!
I began thinking about what a child is like with her parent. In an ideal relationship the parent knows best and guides the child while she is young to places that will benefit her and be safe for her. The parent is loving and wise and protective and to be trusted. Even though the child may be scared to cross the street, she will walk with faith hand-in-hand with her parent because her parent has never given her reason not to trust. Although the child may not be familiar with this new place or may not even be willing or wanting to go, she will follow her parent anywhere. This is not out of fear, innocence, or lack of options; but rather because of trust and faith and a knowledge that so long as mommy or daddy is guiding her..everything will work out.
Although I had already decided that the service that Sunday could offer me nothing relevant (since I had no child to make me a card, bring me breakfast in bed or even fill up a diaper) God decided to speak to me regardless of my doubt, envy and my “all about me” attitude.
God was calling me to follow him even though I was scared, even though I didn’t want to go, even though I was approaching the unknown within my own heart. My Abba was reminding me that He has never left me or forsaken me, that I can trust Him and that I need only follow Him as a child follows her loving parent. This is not naivety, this is childlike faith.
This brings me back to the Psalms and my tummy ache. There are several Psalms that I particularly enjoy reading to soothe my soul because they have images of water and trees (these are two of the images that help me relate the most to God, and also that He uses to speak to me). The first is Psalm 1, another is Psalm 42, and a third is Psalm 23. So I was easing my way through the 23rd Psalm tonight and realized that it indeed can be a bit picante after all.
The Psalmist writes:
“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
This is the part I normally read over and over again. The imagery is beautiful and I can feel God’s presence urging me to sit beside his Living Water and drink. The part that really grabbed by attention tonight, however, comes next:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow the death
I will fear no evil for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff comfort me.”
Now when I typically think of being comforted, I think of chamomile tea, fleece blankets, cuddling, chocolate and Enya. A rod and a staff, not so much. Those are hard, awkward items that don’t ring “soothing” or “cozy” to me.
However, looking at the context of this verse and acknowledging that Jesus is the Shepherd, I am comforted beyond all herbal tea! Although I am walking through a dark valley now, and have no idea what the future holds for me in terms of having children (and other scary things that have been weighing heavily on my heart like finances and beginning ministry next year) I am greatly comforted by the fact that the Great Shepherd has his rod and staff, ready to lead me through this valley and be with me every step of the way.
I suddenly feel like a child crossing the street for the first time, with my hand trembling in Jesus’ hand yet knowing that He knows the way, and that the way is good. Being a child is easy when God is your daddy.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,
You annoint my head with oil; my cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”