When my son David was a little boy of about a year-and-a-half old he was trying to be like his Daddy. For instance, he saw that everyday when I went to work I carried a bag with me (it was my lunch bag) and he decided that he needed a bag too! So he got his own little bag and he put into it his special things: his “me me” (pacifier), his “nee nee” (silk blankie), a box of raisins, and his favorite little car.
I smiled as I watched my little boy carry his bag all around the house with such pride and happiness. With his bag in hand he was ready to face the world!
Sources of Comfort
What made his keepsakes so special? They were more than just nice little play things for a toddler---they were “transitional objects” that helped David to transition from only feeling secure if he was physically with his mother to being able to be calm and confident even if she was not in sight.
The pacifier and blankie in particular had great significance to David because he associated them with the comfort of being nursed, which we facilitated on purpose. Having his special objects in his bag close at hand gave him inner strength and contentment when he played by himself or with other children and when he went to bed at night.
Do you have a bag like this? What would you put in it?
I think that in life we all need to carry a spiritual bag with a few special, practical blessings from God that help us to trust him even when we can’t feel his love, he doesn’t seem to be blessing us, or our prayers aren’t being answered the way we want.
I have a bag and Psalm 23 is in it. When you’re bored, lonely, or anxious it may be tempting to turn to food, Facebook, or alcohol for comfort. Or you might be prone to re-cycle your stress with one worry or self-criticism after another. It’s much better to talk to the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23!
Dallas Willard’s Testimony
I’m in good company: my spiritual mentor Dallas Willard has Psalm 23 in his bag too. He’s been meditating on Psalm 23 first thing in the morning for many years. He explains why he slowly prays through Psalm 23 before beginning his day:
The Twenty-third Psalm… is an exquisite summary of life in the kingdom. The mind of the disciple should have it prominently displayed within, to always foster the joy and peace of the kingdom as well as to orient all of his or her actions within it… This is an essential part of any curriculum for Christ-likeness. Positive engagement with these scriptures will bring kingdom order into our entire personality.
I know many people who profess serious allegiance to Jesus and claim him as their Savior but who, unfortunately, simply will not take these scriptures into their soul and body… [So] they continue to recycle their failures and make little or no real progress…
Intensive internalization of the kingdom order through study of the written word and learning from the Living Word establishes good epidermal responses of thought, feeling, and action. And these in turn integrate us into the flow of God’s eternal reign. We really come to think and believe differently, and that changes everything else. (Divine Conspiracy, 1997, p. 362.)
Trust your Shepherd-King
You too can live in the healing, transformational reality of “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” A good way to begin is to memorize Psalm 23---put it in your special bag to have it with you close at hand for prayer and meditation any time, anywhere.
When you open your heart to the wonderful words and soothing scenes of the David psalm you will indeed experience an “intensive internalization of the kingdom.” You’ll find that you are not alone---Jesus the Shepherd-King is with you to make you to lie down in his green pastures, lead you beside his still waters, and guide you in his path of life. You learn that you can be confident in your Shepherd’s love even in the dark valley when you can’t see him.
More Soul Shepherding
“My Soul Shepherding Psalm” is a fresh paraphrase of Psalm 23 that I wrote---it will inspire you in your daily walk with the Good Shepherd.
Countless people, including many famous poets and hymn writers, have written paraphrases of this beloved Psalm that are wonderful for meditation. You’ll appreciate my collection of “Psalm 23: Translations, Hymns, and Poems.”