Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.
So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.
Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.
I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.
Lately my trusty tool has let me down.
I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.
Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.
Part of it is the time of year.
Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.
But I’m not.
Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.
Last year’s Facebook post:
2:53 4/7/2019 ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.
I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.
So today, breathing is enough.
2:53 April 7, 2019
And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.
Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.
How my heart hurts!
I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.
I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.
It’s no secret I have a particular fondness for biblical passages on shepherding.
For over twenty years I’ve kept goats and sheep in varying numbers and every day discover one more way I am a sheep in need of a Shepherd.
I wander, I’m afraid when I don’t have to be, I do foolish and self-harmful things, I push and shove to get that certain bit of food or space or whatever when all the while there is an abundance, and I often make it hard for the One who loves me best to guide me to the safety and rest of His fold.
That’s one reason the Twenty-third Psalm is especially beautiful to me.
But there’s another reason-hidden inside the original Hebrew-that makes it a favorite Bible passage and a very appropriate one for these frightening times: within the verses are references to seven names of God.
And unlike we who are named according to our parents’ whimsy, God IS His name.
“The Lord is my Shepherd”
– Jehovah Rohi (The Lord is my Shepherd and my Guide) – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will GUIDE you into all truth” ~John 16:13
My goats and sheep will follow me anywhere. Why?
Because they know I won’t lead them into danger and if we happen to stumble upon it, I will protect them and fight for them.
My Shepherd King is so much more trustworthy than I am.
He knows the end from the beginning and loves me more than I love myself. If I will only follow closely behind Him, I can rest assured that wherever He leads, I am in His loving care.
“I shall not want”
– Jehovah Jireh (The Lord is my Provider) “My God shall supply all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:19
My critters are utterly dependent upon me to make sure they have the basic necessities-food, water and a safe and dry place to sleep at night. They can’t run to the grocery store if I forget to toss them grain or hay.
But they don’t pace back and forth afraid I won’t do what I’ve always done.
I waste so much energy and time worrying that somehow God will forget to provide what I need.
It’s that simple. I am not promised everything I WANT. I’m not even guaranteed everything I think I need. But I am absolutely certain that in Christ I have the most needful thing-forgiveness of my sins and right standing with the Father.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters”
– Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is my Peace — my calm in the midst of a storm) – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23
Shalom is a big word.
According to Strong’s Concordance (7965) Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.
Peace isn’t a place or only a promise–it’s a Person.
And that Person is Jesus, my Shepherd King.
When my little flock hears something that frightens them, they run straight toward me and wait to see if I am frightened too. My presence brings them peace.
I am often more foolish than my dumb animals! I run to so many people and things of the world hoping one or the other can bring me the peace I so desperately crave. But I can only really rest when I place my full confidence in Jehovah-Shalom-the One who IS Peace.
“He restores my soul”
– Jehovah Rapha (The Lord my Healer) – “And by His stripes we are healed” ~1 Peter 2:24 (and Isaiah 53:5)
Anyone who has spent time with me here knows I’m no fan of “sunshine” Christianity. I’m no “name it and claim it” crusader. So I do not believe that God my Healer means I won’t ever suffer.
That’s why I really love the phrase “He restores my soul”.
Because isn’t that really what we ALL want? Restoration of the very core of who we are? Rest in the center of our being?
Jesus has restored my soul more than once.
When I reach out and touch the hem of His garment, He heals the most broken places in my soul.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”
– Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord is my Righteousness; in Him I have right standing with God) “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” ~2 Corinthians 5:21
Let’s be honest, I can always find somebody that makes me look good. There’s always someone whose a little badder than I am.
Problem is, that’s not how God does things. He doesn’t use a sliding scale or a grading curve to determine who meets the mark and who misses it.
God is holy, set apart, completely righteous, pure and good.
I am none of those things.
And there is absolutely no way I can make myself those things.
But He has provided righteousness for me through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice if I choose to believe.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me”
– Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There; He is our Ever-Present God) – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” ~Hebrews 13:5
This may actually be my very favorite name of God. “The Lord is There” is an amazing concept!
“Immanuel”-God with us! The Lord Himself come down to dwell with men.
The God who made the universe, made me. The God who counts the stars and sets them in their place, counts the hairs on my head and set me in this place at this time.
This virus crisis FEELS like the shadow of death.
It feels like some creeping thing slinking around the edges of my family, waiting to devour us. I can’t see it and I can’t stop it.
But I am not alone. Jesus is here.
HE is here.
And I can rest in His promise that whatever I may face, I will never, ever face alone.
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
– Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is my Banner, my standard, He covers me) – “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him” ~Isaiah 59:19
In the Song of Solomon His banner over me is love.
In Ruth, His banner is Kinsman-Redeemer, covering my weakness with His strength.
In the gospels, His banner is victory over sin, death and the grave.
You may be hunkered down in your home, wondering how we all got here- questioning whether this may be a work of evil men or the evil one and when or if we might be rescued.
I can’t answer the why or when.
But I can point you to the Who-the One who wants to love you, to give you strength and to assure you that even death doesn’t have the last word.
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
My Shepherd King cares for me when I’m distressed and He fills me with Himself until my soul overflows.
His goodness and mercy pursues and overtakes me!
I have spent many, many hours hunting down a lost sheep or goat. I’ve had some wander off so far in the woods we couldn’t even hear them, much less see them.
But I do not give up. I do not stop looking. I do not go to bed and say, “I’ll find them tomorrow”.
I pursue them until I can bring them back in the fold. There they dwell in safety, fully cared for as long as they live.
I am worth so much more than a sheep. God will not forget me or dismiss me or allow me to wander forever.
He will come find me and bring me home to His heart and His path.
And one day-one glorious day-He will take me to my forever Home.
Does the image of Jesus as Shepherd help your heart find hope? Why or why not?
Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are considered by most biblical scholars to represent three images of Christ (22-Suffering Savior, 23-Shepherd, 24-Victorious King). Read them together and see if you agree.
Is there one of the names of God included in this study that is particularly precious to you?
Write out each name of God and see if you can find one other verse not previously mentioned that deepens your understanding of what the name means.
What does it mean to say God IS His name? If you have access to an online concordance, find one or two other names of God that might encourage you right now.
You are a good, perfect and loving Father. You are my Shepherd, my Provider, my Healer, my Righteousness, my Banner and YOU ARE HERE.
Help my heart lean into this truth.
Provide the most needful thing-Yourself-as I walk fearfully through this Valley. Restore my soul and flood it with Your peace.
Thank You that You are my righteousness-I am not left in my sins to receive the punishment they deserve. Thank You for Jesus.
Spread Your banner of love over my heart. Spread your banner of strength over my weakness. Spread Your banner of victory over my feeble attempt to ward off worry.
Let me feel Your Presenceand help me trust Your heart.
“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
It’s easy when you’re scared to shout loudly at whatever scapegoat crosses your path. But it’s hardly helpful.
My earnest hope in this season of worldwide fear is this: that people will show themselves to be more compassionate than they think they are, that communities will come together instead of falling apart and that while politicians may work hard to spin headlines one way or the other, citizens will insist on helping one another instead of hating one another.
A friend recently posted that not all the lessons of grief are bitter.
Some are sweet.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey. And one of the sweet things I’ve learned is that the best thing to offer fellow travelers is a bit of my heart instead of a piece of my mind.
Driving down the road I look to the right at the pond overflowing its banks and find myself drifting out of the lane and onto the shoulder.
I never intend to run off the road.
But I steer where I stare. Every time.
I do the same thing with my thought life.
Even before Dominic left us I realized that if I stared long enough and hard enough at the challenges before me (educating and raising four children), the world around me (full of danger and potential danger) or the looming prospect of some giant future obligation, I’d drift from the firm foundation of peace and contentment in Christ and end up in an ocean of worry and despair.
It was critical that I redirect my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection to Jesus and I used Scripture to help me do just that.
I remember the first time I copied out and held onto this verse:
Dominic was only six months old and I absolutely, positively HAD to have my gallbladder removed. I was anxious about leaving him and his siblings for the twenty-four hour hospital stay and even more anxious to be placed under general anesthesia.
The last time I’d been wheeled down a hospital hallway for an operation other than a cesarean section was as a three year old.
There’s something very eerie and frightfully final about having that mask placed over your nose and being asked to count backwards. I didn’t count. Instead I repeated my verse.
And when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, this was one of the verses that helped my heart hold on.
What was once a good habit became a lifeline.
Peace was elusive in those first days, months and even years, but I clung desperately to the truth that if I continued to meditate on, recite and copy out God’s Word my heart would eventually hear it.
Life may be swirling all around me, threatening to steal my hope, my peace, my joy. But I am declaring right now that I will not be swept up into a storm of fear and wild emotions. The Lord has promised me that He will keep me in perfect peace when I fix my mind on Him. I very much recognize I will steer where I stare. So I must watch what I fixate on. If I keep staring at the wrong things, I’ll go in wrong directions. I am choosing to place my attention on the Lord in this very moment. I am choosing to focus on trusting Him and believing His promises. And as I steer my attention more and more toward Him, His peace will come and flood my heart and settle my anxious mind.You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
Lisa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way
My heart is headed somewhere.
Focusing solely on what I’ve lost, what I’m afraid of, or the emotional and relational storm around me will lead to despair.
When I lift my eyes and fix my gaze on Jesus, He will lead me to hope.
When I reach out my hand for the edge of His garment, He will help me hold on.