Fridays with Susan...
Are you tired of hearing how busy I am? Take a peek at how I survive...
My day is laid out before me like a great drafting table in my mind's eye. On the table are yesterday's projects waiting to be put away, along with files yet unopened, mixed with projects not yet started and others partially completed. There are piles of paper which need to be processed and filed, and sticky notes galore. I must not forget this, or that. Or the other thing! A significant portion of what is spread all over my imaginary table in haphazard fashion are photographs. Photographs of people whose images are reminding me that they are waiting for things, important things. Things which only my hand can produce. Things which were due yesterday or last week but which I have no hope of getting to today and maybe not for another month or even two. If ever. I shuffle the piles around and other faces appear, vulnerable faces, faces of those who are waiting for action on my part to influence others in a way which can make a significant difference in their very lives. Those who have no voice to speak for themselves, or a very quiet voice, but who are depending on me to do my best to understand and to add my voice to theirs to make it louder and to affect change. That cannot wait. None of it can wait. Other faces appear. Faces of more people who are waiting too. Waiting for my presence; for my undivided attention; for me to come home or to where they are. To those people I am irreplaceable. They only have one wife, one Mom, one Grandma, one dear friend (one friend who fits my particular description and loves them back in my own inimitible way). And then there are the piles that need to be worked on and eventually filed under "me". What about my writing? My optional relationships - those who are my chosen family - my friends? My interests and passions? What about those "five talents" the Master has entrusted me with? They must be invested! And what about the need to protect certain non-negotiables, things like periods of solitude, which are essential to my sanity, which come along with the person God made me to be and for which I offer no apology.
I shuffle some more, trying to keep the pressure from overwhelming me, and another picture surfaces. One yellow with age, taken over 50 years ago in Mrs. Brown's Grade 2 classroom. I see children lined up three deep in the front of the classroom, practicing their recitation for the next school assembly. I am in the front row where she can keep an eye on me, and we are saying together, directed by Mrs. Brown who stands in front of us and waves her arms to guide our cadence, the 23rd Psalm.
I have come back time and again, to those precious words hidden securely in my heart way back then. I was only six at the time and truthfully, it didn't mean much to me then. The King James English, though rhythmic and beautiful, seemed strange in an "other-worldly" poetic sort of way. I didn't even know what a shepherd did, other than to stand in a field with his housecoat on and some sheep nearby while waiting for some angels to mysteriously appear on Christmas Eve. Of the valley of death I had no knowledge or experience, and enemies, were naively non-existent.
This morning, as I contemplate that mess of need scattered across my drafting table, it bubbles out of my heart as a prayer... As I wrote in another blog this week, it sounds something like this:
Lord, you are my shepherd, so I will not want for anything - ever. I have no needs that you cannot or will not meet!
You make sure that I have green pastures to lie in - you feed me well from your Word and from the relationships and experiences you provide for me in everyday life. You lead me beside still waters where my soul is calmed and I am able to drink deeply of your Spirit. And there, beside those quiet waters, you restore my soul - where I find rest. Sigh!
You lead me in paths of righteousness - you show me your ways- your ways that are so much higher than mine - for your name's sake. And as I follow you there, sometimes not understanding what you are doing but learning more and more to just trust in your ways, there is a harvest of glory, glory which rightly belongs to you, glory which becomes my evening sacrifice offered up to you in gratitude each day.
Even though that path gets so dark and I know that I am facing certain death - to self - I will not fear that anything bad is happening to me. You are good all the time. You are right there with me, leading me not into but through that valley! Your rod and staff bring such comfort to me on the journey. Because I know you will discipline me, I am not afraid of my sin nature and where it could take me, but am comforted by the knowledge that you will only let me go so far - that you will let it hurt only enough to train me to forsake my own ways in favour of yours..
You prepare a table before me in front of my enemies - you show them (and me!) that as I wait for your goodness to appear, it surely will. Wrong judgments made against me will be vindicated and accurate judgments will be forgiven and I will ever be restored to a place of intimate friendship with you. You work it all out in such a way that there is no doubt that it was you and you alone. You pour the oil of "belonging" over my head, my cup of blessing overflows and spills over to others, because I am yours. I belong to you alone, and you are so good to me!
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and regardless of the situation, I will be where you are and you will be where I am - forever and always - "Thou my Great Father, and I thy true son, Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee, one."
While praying these thoughts, my heart becomes still. He is near! In front of me still are the piles and piles of commitments, and deadlines, and responsibilities. But they aren't mine alone. I have a shepherd who guides me through them, never giving me more than He and I can handle together, and granting me his great friendship, and love unbounded, along the way. On the outside it still looks pretty messy, and it is, but on the inside, I am walking a gently rolling path, with the Shepherd I live for, green grass on one side and the still water of a spring fed pond just ahead.
"For he himself is our peace..." (Eph 2:14) Ah, ain't that the truth!