Sunday, August 11, 2013

Psalm 23:1

How many times a day did I walk by her room and look in to see if she was awake or asleep, sitting up, lying down, or listening to one of her book tapes. The room was like a photograph or painting that I looked at often and knew so well. It was a changing photo, but not much. It was after all a room of a sickness unto death, her last few months of life.

I remember how she appeared whenever I saw her walk the hall late at night, before that last year. If I were up late in a nearby room, I would see her tall, erect, slim figure move down the hall into the kitchen. She knew every part of our kitchen, where to get a midnight glass of milk, a banana, or some crackers. Her long diaphanous gowns added to the ghost-like impression she made, for she glided more than stepped. I don't know how she achieved that walk.   

That day, walking by her room, I don't know why I stopped in at that moment determined to have special time with her, just to talk. By then, she could not leave the bed without help.

"Are you awake?" I asked. She could lie so still, by habit, eyes closed, that you could not tell so easily if she were asleep or awake. She was blind.

Hearing my questions, she sat up, bending her knees and hugging them lightly with her arms. "Yes," she said with that soft note of anticipation matched by her coming-alive expression that I knew so well. She wanted company. She was ready to talk. 

"I was wondering," I said, "if you'd like for us to read a psalm together."

"Yes," she said, almost on top of my last word. 

"What psalm, then, any particular one?"

"Psalm 23."

We both knew that psalm by heart, as so many do, but I went into the next room to get a Bible. I returned to her room, said I was ready, and began to read, stopping at the end of the first verse. She had spoken the verse along with my reading it: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." 

And then before I could go on to the second verse, she began to talk about the first one. She put a delicate hand to her chest as she said, "He's my shepherd. It's personal." And she said more than that, far more.

I stood there just inside her room, Bible in hand. She continued talking about Psalm 23, the first verse. She was almost preaching about it in that clear, yet soft, tender way she had. I could not take my eyes off her. Her feeling and her vivid intellect came through. She could see into things. I stood there amazed, being fed by her words. I could not believe what I was hearing, for she was extracting so much from those few words...only nine of them. 

President Lincoln, I have been told, gave what became known as "the lost speech." It was lost because, although reporters had pens and notebooks ready, they had become so amazed by what he said that they were mesmerized and put their writing instruments down. For that reason, there is one speech that Lincoln gave for which there is no record. 

No doubt, such things happen, I know, for such a thing happened to me one day in my own home, listening to my dear mother-in-law, Helen, expound on one verse, the first verse, of one of the most well-known of all the psalms.

I hope it might bring some comfort to you to take in those words that so inspired her that she spoke what I could not write down, being amazed by what she said about what those few words really meant. 

Could you feed on those few words for many moments? "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." It's personal. My shepherd. In that truth, no one can want, or want for, anything. He takes care, our LORD does, of His own, beyond measure, beyond adequate words. The closer one is to Him, the easier the words come and the clearer their meaning. It's for a lifetime.    

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