In my work as a transition pastor I struggle with the intensity of the role that includes the demands of keeping on track regarding the transition process while also being away from home for more than two weeks at a time. Though I am surrounded by responsive and affirming people in the situation I miss the connection of family and friends from home. I’m mindful of the fact that the nature of the work requires discipline. In a 16 – 20 day period, there aren’t too many days just to kick back and relax. And there are extra preparations for the church for the period of time that I am away at home. Last month seemed especially demanding on a number of different levels.
That’s why the break of this past week seemed so welcome. Though it’s shorter than usual, I’m so enjoying the opportunity to refresh in body and spirit here at home. At the same time, I’ve come to Psalm 23 in my regular time of meditation and I have been stuck there for a number of days. I don’t know of any passage of the Bible that describes the blessedness of the human/divine relationship better than this one. It is sublime.
Through many years on the faith journey I’ve come to realize that it really is a rugged path. There are a large number of Scriptures that make it clear how the Christian life is the way of the cross. Luke 9:23, John 12:24, Philippians 1:29 are just a few that immediately pop into my mind about the demanding nature of the Christian way. But these references are set against a background of what it means to live in fellowship with God as described in this beautiful passage. And every once in awhile, we need to be reminded about the wonder and beauty of this human/divine connection into which we are called.
Perhaps I’ve been influenced in these thoughts by the words of Tim Keller in his book, King’s Cross. I’ve just begun listening to the audio version of this wonderful description of the Gospel as set forth in Mark. In the opening chapter, Keller speaks of the dance between the members of the divine Trinity as they seek to glory in, and glorify, one another. It is a world of utter unselfishness, according to Keller’s description, and there is nothing more beautiful. And this is the relationship into which God has called us to live as well.
When I think about the words of Psalm 23, “…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 the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with the wonder of God’s grace and goodness. In my home, away from the intensity of pastoral ministry demands, I am soaking up the beauty of all the ways God is giving me rest and making His goodness known to me.
Tim Keller makes the point that we are inclined to be self-focused in so many subtle ways, including the way we often feel obligated to do what people ask of us for fear of their rejection. Our motivations, even in our “service for Christ” can often really be ways of preserving our reputation and so on. And when we do that, we step out of the dance into which we have been invited to participate by the God of love and grace. In selfishness to any extent we become static, the movement stops, and what God designed for us in His glory, is forfeited.
We need to soak our souls in the beauty of these words in Psalm 23 more often. We need to be reminded of the Father’s love and care in our lives and enjoy what He has provided. It is not wrong to appreciate the blessings that God brings into our lives, as long as they do not become ends in themselves; as long as our glory is in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We need to rejoice in their fellowship and the wonders of their love, their grace, their truth, and their goodness.