My two-year-old gave me an unexpected opportunity yesterday to practice what I just preached Sunday. I noted in my sermon that I had been understanding Psalm 23 as a “counter-circumstantial prayer of defiance,” a “subversive prayer when you compare it to what you see around you.”
I mentioned some potential circumstances which make us feel far from the idyllic pastoral imagery of the Psalm, and then suggested that those are some of the best times to (defiantly) pray Psalm 23:
When you hear about wars and rumors of wars, say this Psalm.
When your best friend gets sick, say this Psalm.
When someone in your family grieves you by their seeming lack of care for you, say this Psalm.
When you don’t know what the next year of your life holds, say this Psalm.
An instance I didn’t think to include was:
When your two-year-old daughter draws with permanent marker all over the brand-new cork floor that the church graciously put in last year in the parsonage kitchen… say this Psalm.
When I noticed the damage, this image is about the opposite of how I was feeling:
I was feeling more like this:
For at least 10 minutes as I frantically scrubbed, I didn’t even remember there was a Psalm 23, let alone think to say it.
But then I took a step back (by God’s grace) and began to quietly say–through gritted teeth:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul….
And when my gracious and patient wife came home, she gently reminded me of the “magic sponge” we have under the sink that takes permanent marker off of everything. Within minutes, the green marker drawing on the floor was gone. Gone. The cork floor is good as new.
True, there are much darker valleys in life to walk through, but I think sometimes in parenting those little mini-valleys of frustration and exasperation can add up pretty quickly. And for us parents, they can be the regular “stuff” of our everyday existence. We need good Psalms to pray for the big valleys, and good Psalms to pray for the little valleys.
For those moments–should my two-year-old again somehow elude my watch like she has been so eager to do lately–I will try again (and again) to remember to “say this Psalm.”