Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Still Place

No matter how busy he got (and some days were busier than he had ever imagined could be possible), he always found time for this, time apart from the throngs around him, time apart from the endless questions, the endless reports that he must receive with sober judgement, the endless decisions, significant or meaningless, that he had to constantly make. Here, alone with his harp, he breathed out the pain, the frustration, the personal hurts and confusion, and breathed in the love and mercy of his God. Here he was restored, here the jumbled pattern of his days resolved into sense and meaning. He took his tears to God, and his anger, and that terrible sense of helplessness which is the grinding stone for everyone who finds themselves a leader.
Tonight he was pensive, looking back across the years of battle and bloodshed, and remembering how simple it had seemed when he was just a shepherd boy, out on the hills with the flocks, and his harp, and the heartbreaking beauty of God. But what if he turned it around?  What if he were the sheep and it was the Lord Almighty who was his shepherd, feeding him, leading him protecting him? What if … ?

He ran his hands across the strings, and his fingers found their joy. “The Lord is the shepherd,” he sang softly into the night air. No, that wasn’t it, there was a false note there. He faltered, paused and started again. “The Lord is MY Shepherd,” he sang. Yes, that was better, both the notes and the meaning rang true. And suddenly the song was flowing, in him and through him. “I shall not want”, “green pastures,” “still waters” – the words tripped from his tongue and the music flowed through his fingers. This was it, these were the words that put flesh and mortal understanding onto the secret gladness of his faith, clothing it with a form that gave some expression of the mystery that was his life and breath, the mystery that God would bend down into relationship with a broken man. He could see how the images fitted: the soul restored (oh yes!) the righteous path determined.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” He paused. What could he say about that? But no, that also was true. He gazed into the darkness and saw it – “You are with me, your rod and your staff …” He breathed deeply, but he would not flinch from it. The deeper the pain, the more glorious was the mercy that carried him through. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He remembered the rage of Goliath and the spears of Saul. He remembered cruelty, and fear, and blood shed far too easily, as if a man’s life counted for nothing. He bowed his head, unashamed of his tears. But God had been there, with him, even in the ugliest places. He raised his eyes and gazed, unafraid, into the infinite darkness of the skies, and, for a moment, it was as if he saw eternity open, and a glory that negated and washed away every pain and struggle:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” It was the song of his heart, and he would teach it to his people that it might be their song too.

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