Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have seen those little books that you find in libraries, pet stores, and department stores. They have titles like “The Care and Feeding of Guinea Pigs” or “Taking Care of Your Tropical Fish.” I remember enjoying books like that in the little library we had at my elementary school. They broke down the task of caring for pets by adopting a simple plan that broke down the larger task into many smaller tasks.
When Meg and I were expecting our first child, we depended upon a book called “What to Expect when you are Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff. We also had a copy of “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” by Benjamin Spock. It turns out that caring for a baby has a lot of the same tasks as caring for a pet. Of course, you read the baby books with a lot more care and concern, but they break down the monumental task into many smaller habits and activities.
In the light of this “Care and Feeding” idea, I’d like to turn to a very familiar passage of scripture.
Psalm 23. A Psalm of David.
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 fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy 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.
Here, we are told how God cares for us. It reads a little bit like the care and feeding of sheep, but it is much more. God leads us to safe places where we eat and drink. “Still waters” also suggest peacefulness. The “paths of righteousness” suggest that is normal to walk in the company of our good shepherd.
The Psalm also implies that the journey is not always safe, easy, or pleasant. The “valley of the shadow of death” is a foreboding place — to say the least. But God is our comfort in the midst of hard times. We don’t need to fear evil, because the goodness of God is always stronger than the evil of the world. As Paul says much later, no power can separate us from the love of God. The psalm goes on to say that God continues to feed us, protect us, and bless us even in hard times. We end the Psalm being pursued by goodness and mercy. We are pursued by good things as we have hope for the future with our shepherd.
Right now, many of us are being guided to places of peace and safety. Right now, many of us are walking through a valley of shadows. We eat and drink good things from the world God made. We take shelter in relationships as well as buildings. Even though we are isolated in the flesh, we draw close in spirit, in friendship, and in love. God continues to bless us in hard times.
So, consider the care and feeding of your body and soul. Break the big task into little tasks. Consider the love and nurture of friends, family, neighbors, strangers and even enemies. Send text messages, make phone calls, and write letters. Walk, lie down, enjoy places of peace, and then walk a good path outside. If the news scares you, take comfort in the ways love moves and impels you. Count your blessings like a table laid out for a feast. Your cup still overflows with goodness. The One who has loved you will always love you.
And you are being pursued, but not by sickness or chaos. You are being pursued by goodness and mercy. Resign yourself to love and hope.
P.S. Pray for the staff people of retirement communities and nursing homes.