I wasn’t planning on posting this week. Between life with a 3 month old, and overcoming multiple birthdays, and a dark Alaska that is tricky to photograph anything, I thought I had nothing to share. But I as I sat alone nursing my baby in the mom’s room at church on Sunday, I had an opportunity to journal thoughts that I have been mulling over the last couple of months. I would prefer hanging on to a post for a couple of weeks to adequately edit, shave, and perfect, but sometimes you feel the now urge.
About ten years ago I had a dream. The dream was reminiscent of the night terrors I had as a child. I was in the dark, no light switch would work, I was entrapped in darkness and something evil was overtaking me. It may seem like silliness, but when you had night terrors as a child, the terror of the night can be very real.
But then, this dream changed. Somehow I broke through the darkness and ended up in my living room where it was daylight. Instead of our couches being in the living room it was full of round tables decorated in vibrant colors. And when I say vibrant, I mean I have never seen colors on earth like I saw in that dream. They were living, they had tones of sherbet but they had depth that was unexplainable by earthly standards. Then I looked where our living room exterior wall was, the one that faced the mountain, and instead of a wall, the house opened up to a lush field of sun-beamed green grass. By this time I felt the tangible peace in this place, and a party that I knew was set for me.
For years I dismissed the first part of the dream as another terror haunting me, and the second part was my own Psalm 23 experience, however I never recognized the truth in it all.
As a four year old I memorized Psalm 23, my brother two years my younger, beat me to it, but it was the first scripture I could recite rotely.
And for most of my life I have viewed Psalm 23 as a place of retreat. When hard stuff comes there is a place of peace to escape to. Probably because in hard times that is my coping mechanism. In the freeze, flight or fight scenario I most often try to take off in flight.
But it wasn’t until the last two months of meditating almost solely on this passage that I realized that the lens I had been peering through was skewed. The Lord is my Shepherd I have everything I need says nothing about a vacation to escape life, or a bomb shelter to hunker inside, or a need to retreat in order to gain that peace. (I am not however negating the spiritual principles of set aside times of rest).
But when David penned this Psalm he brought real life into the picture. Because real life is not vacation, as alluring as it sounds. Real life is hard. Real life involves conflict and pain. And if we try to fly away, or close our eyes and freeze and hope it goes away, or fight the living daylight out of it, we’re only going to become more worried and exhausted and believe life will be better when….
I recently read Chip and Joanna Gaines’s book The Magnolia Story. One thing she said really struck me. She said, “I learned how to thrive in the midst of the pain.”
That’s it! He will guide us through the valley of the shadows, and sit us down to eat a gourmet meal, surrounded by enemies. How? Because pain and conflict are a part of life. And until we learn that peace isn’t a place, it’s His presence with us in the midst of the hard places, we will continue in the freeze, flight, or fight mentality.
When we realize His Presence and goodness with us, we really are invincible.
Now looking back on that dream I realize it was all a picture of Psalm 23. In the midst of my enemies, where I thought I was gonna die, he prepared a vibrant party for me. Learning peace in the midst of unknowns. Thriving in the midst of pain. Believing in a hope and a future in the midst of conflict. Before me, he guides me in His right path sustaining my every need. Beside me he protects me. Behind me his goodness and mercy follow.
Everyday is a Psalm 23 day, it’s not a place of retreat, it’s a story about life.