PSALM 23 (ESV) | The Good Shepherd
“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 paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul…
The year was 1989. Having entered into a numbing depression, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. For a while, before I understood depression, I had the terrifying thought that I must be losing my mind. I had to curtail all extra activity and use the meager stores of energy I did have to simply take care of my young family. I seemed to be living in a grey fog. My husband cut back on his travel so he could be fully present.
At this time, the Church did not understand or talk about clinical depression. Too often the view was, “If you were trusting God, you wouldn’t be going through this.” And although I knew that God and I were “fine”—that he and I loved each other dearly—the ways I normally connected to God were not working. I was at a loss.
During this period, I read some books by Agnes Sanford, my “historical mentor.” She wrote about relating to God during depression. She talked about creation and allowing oneself to meet God in nature—not trying to force things to happen. Her words gave me permission to do just that.
I began going to a favorite park near our house. I sat in the soft sunshine and watched the baby ducklings paddle behind their mama in the still water, soaking in the beauty of the scene. While nothing profound happened, these times began to quiet and nourish my soul in a unique way. I realized that God was meeting me there. As I watched his creation, warmth penetrated my inner despair.
The beauty of the scene ministered to me on one level, and on another level I was gaining a deeper understanding of the gentleness of God. He treated me so tenderly, knowing I was “at the end of myself.” He didn’t have hoops for me to jump through in order to feel connected to him. He was exquisitely tender and began to show me that I could be gentle with myself as well. In the wonder of his creation and with a new inner receptivity, I began to see him restore my soul in ways I had not expected.
Going through that experience opened up new vistas for me—fresh new ways of connecting with him that have remained with me to this day.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Have you ever felt “at the end of yourself”? Did you pressure yourself to be different—to do better? Were you able to connect with the gentleness and tenderness of God at that moment?
What are the green pastures and still waters in your life where your soul finds rest and connection to God? Are you giving yourself time for these encounters? Your soul will be restored as you do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patty Metcalf and her husband, Sam, were one of four families that began CRM in 1980. Sam has served as president of CRM since 1985, and Patty is equally involved in ministry with a particular focus on healing prayer and mentoring. They live in Southern California and have two children and five grandchildren.
This piece was originally published in CRM’s 2012 Lent Devotional.