Friday, October 16, 2015

Empty Pockets

It's been one of those mornings. One of those weeks ... months. I could complain, give you specific reasons why why, but Reader, I think you know enough about life to understand.

Just believe that it's ugly, and the ugly is me.

It has been a hard, hard season, these past few months.

I keep finding myself falling into prayer, a desperate, dry pleading, but no words come, no Scripture, no articulated heart-pleas. All my brain can bring forth the past month have been Psalm 23 and a mis-remembered line of that old Gadsby hymn: "Jesus the Lord my Shepherd is..." For weeks, this has been the only weapon in my spiritual tool belt.

I have dozens of other verses committed to memory, a horde of hymns and poems that serve as my support base and reminders of truth in dry seasons. Romans, Galatians, Hopkins, even Andrew Peterson -- but now, in this empty, lonely time, the only thing that comes when I reach is Psalm 23. Every single time, midnight or sunny afternoon.

Surely, if I were a better Christian, more mature, more fully immersed in the truths of the gospel and the Words of life, I would have more in my pockets than this. Right? Even pagans know this one. 

It feels weak, akin to saying I love hiking, but showing up for the Appalachian Trail in flip flops.

But... no Scripture is weak. There are no Words of Truth that fail to shine light into darkness. If Psalm 23 is what the Holy Spirit put in my pocket, then I must cling to it. And how beautiful that the Spirit has brought His own poetry to minister to this weary heart.

I'm tired. Tired of being touched, of being pulled, of being needed and yelled at and not listened to. Tired of whining voices and repeated conversations and no space to breathe, let alone care for my head or heart or body. Tired of giving more than I have, tired of dying, of wanting.

Deep breath.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

I shall not want.

Green pastures, quiet waters, the dark valley, the presence of enemies -- all at the Shepherd's leading. He isn't surprised or put off by that cup of coffee all over the floor, or by me when I burst into frustrated tears.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

This means sanctification. It means growth and change. It sounds lovely and serene, but I think the image here is not so much a gentle, meandering trail through the meadow, but more like the one horrible time I went mountain biking: a free-fall-slide down a steep gravel trail into a rocky, muddy creek at the bottom of the hill. Scrapes and bruises and holy terror because I'm being dragged through the mud of my own sinful rebellion, all the brutally ugly that I am inside being exposed and felt and fought, and then, hopefully, scraped away. For His name's sake.

Days like today make me question whether I actually believe what I say I believe, when no matter how many times I remind myself of the truth, my patience still snaps, my tongue still tastes like poison. This does not look like goodness and mercy, or a table in the presence of my enemies. This feels like hunkering down in the Enemy's own barracks and supping his slop.

If this season, this struggle against daily darkness is just that, a struggle against the Enemy himself, then God has promised a table, a feast for me here. He says He will feed and supply and care, so I must believe that, and fear no evil. Even here, perhaps especially so, my cup overflows. If this struggle is against the sin in my own heart, then it is the comfort of His staff and His rod, then I must believe that this season is goodness and mercy.

All I've got in my pocket today is a promise: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

It feels like I'm hopelessly wanting; but He is not. I must believe that.

And ... I'm not wanting, Reader. Suddenly, this tiny mustard seed, this moment of grace-given faith to believe this promise shows me this.

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