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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 12, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 23

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.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your 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 my whole life long. (NRSV)

On a beautiful summer day a few weeks ago, I was sitting alone in a park when a young boy I didn’t know proudly showed me a picture of a flower he had drawn. His mother smiled as her son and I talked about his crayon drawing. I thought it was odd, though, that there were numbers around the whole flower, so I asked why they were in the picture too. In elaborate detail he explained that these were the measurements of the height, width, and other dimensions of the flower because he wanted the picture to be perfect. Then he said, “I want to be perfect all the time.” His mother was still smiling, and I said to him, “It’s really hard to be perfect most of the time.”

Like many people, I have read or heard Psalm 23 countless times, but after my conversation about this boy’s perfect flower, I noticed something in this familiar text for the first time. The perfect, idyllic scene about lying down in green pastures and being beside still waters is followed a few words later with a very frightening, certainly not perfect walk through the darkest valley. As much as we all just want to be perfect and want our lives to be perfect too, we are often reminded that each of us is not perfect, life is not perfect, and at some point we all walk through the darkest valley. The highs go with the lows—we can’t know one without the other—but by embracing both we can eventually grow and become closer to God.

What I really wanted to say to the boy with the picture is this: It’s great to try to be perfect, but don’t let that unattainable goal stop you from getting on the path every day and trying again and again. You will never reach the goal of perfection, and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is to ask God for help, to simply do your best, to keep on trying, to stay on the journey toward perfection even though you will never achieve it. What matters more than perfection is the journey itself, the journey towards God and becoming our fullest, truest whole beings.

The psalm finishes with the words “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” This is the true and only perfection: being one with God, being so united with God that we know only love, only light, in this life or the next.

Loving God, help me to seek you in all that I do and say so that I may be united with you in that one perfect, true, and holy light. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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