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 right paths for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:1-3 (NRSV)
“I will never read Psalm 23 the same way again,” I told Kyle as we made our way through another pasture. It was day two of our pilgrimage on St. Cuthbert’s Way. We would cover more than 63 miles of British countryside all told, much of it through sheep fields.
And we learned quickly that sheep are a mess. The animals had moved on from this particular hillside, but the evidence of their presence was everywhere. Like, nowhere to step, everywhere. Like, more of a brown pasture than green, everywhere. Like, not somewhere you’d want to lie down or drink the water no matter how still it was, everywhere.
And the wool! The Scottish hills were covered in thorny gorse bushes, and every bush looked like it was wearing a sweater. Big tufts of sheep just ripped off, the evidence of thoughtless or clumsy beings who clearly needed to be led in right paths.
And I could sympathize.
I was replaying the way I’d been a jerk to Kyle the day before. And the way that jerkiness was symptomatic of the ways I am often a jerk. I was thinking of the path of destruction I sometimes leave in my wake, evidence of my thoughtless and clumsy missteps.
I was also remembering how it felt when he forgave me. And we hugged. And we started again with a clear slate, walking on fresh ground. Remembering how it restored my soul.
I am a mess. Lead me. Make me lie down. Restore me.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.