The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Ps 23, v. 1, KJV
The Psalmist reassures us that nature is at peace with us, that we must embrace its peace to feel peace. God’s creation is not in opposition to us, rather complementary to us. We find peace of mind, next to the cool clear waters and verdure of the natural environment. Psalms use the imagery of a pastoral people. God the Creator of nature is pictured as a shepherd to his sheep, the humans. Sheep are peaceful ruminants who seek to live contented in nature’s grasp. There is only one shepherd. When each human decides he/she is a shepherd, then conflict results.
In the contentment provided by nature, for all beings, the soul, that is the spirit, Greek psyche, is brought to us by the Lord, perhaps at death. If we have this thing, this soul, just in life, then why would it be restored to us? It is in death, when living beings lack a physical presence, that the soul is restored.
The paths of righteousness are overwhelmingly clear, even if I daily lose my way. The path is before me, in my heart, in my soul, though my brain, my bodily passions, which often take the other way, stray from the path, or I lose sight of my guide, or I drag along, unwilling to let go of the past.
One path often seems to lead the way toward the shadow of death and destruction, annihilation, nonexistence. The darkness can be overwhelming. The light snuffed by death’s shadow allows all the nascent fears of my being to come rushing in, and I feel alone, scared, abandoned, and thrust into a deep dark pit of no return. Death beckons.
God can vanquish the fear, but only if I let Him. How can evil, that is physical destruction and annihilation, be nearby if God is with me? How can I be on a path of death and destruction when God is before me? He is my guide, as I journey forth through the wilderness and approach the mountain that stands before me. The ascent will be easy if only I follow the guide, and don’t stray from the path.
Surrounded by the enemies of my mind and body—fear, anxiety, pain, sickness, death—You bid me to share a meal with You, to find comfort in the everyday, in the regular habits and tasks of existence. This is my greatest challenge, for I never find comfort in the everyday, in the banal of existence, but am always looking to the next thing, and the next, getting lost in the future when I should be content in the present. The peace of the present evades my wandering mind. Lord, help me to accept this moment.
Mercy is in pursuit, trying to catch up to my wandering ways, while I search for light in the twisted path of darkness. Allow mercy to make up the distance, to come alongside, to be the partner in the race to the end. Allow mercy to embrace now, in this instant, to feel the peace, to stifle the restlessness, to seize the offered contentment in each and every moment.
At my death, at the death of all creatures, the Lord welcomes me, us, to His dwelling in the everlasting moment.