Friday, December 01, 2006

The King of Love my Shepherd is

The King of Love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever. (Henry W. Baker, 1868)

The summer before I was diagnosed bipolar was a trying one. I knew there was something wrong (I'd experienced insomnia at least once a month for months on end, my work was suffering, I was often paranoid). In April, I broke up with the man I had been dating. In early June, he tried to reconcile, and slowly we did, such that we were dating again by July 4th. I was seeking God every day on behalf of myself and this relationship. My walks in the morning were not let's look at nature, but let's come before God and find out what's what. I clung to the Twenty-third Psalm. When the darkness seemed to close in, I would hold onto my desk at the back of Fox Books, in the Children's Department, and recite from memory the Psalm my mother had taught me as a child for a
bedtime prayer.

The shadow of the valley of deep darkness--I was acquainted with it, keenly. So, after I started my recovery, after my bipolar diagnosis, that Psalm only reminded me of that trying time. That time of intense suffering and confusion in my life. A time when I was scared because I didn't know where I was headed. I stopped saying it, and whenever it came to mind, I shut it away, so as to not remember that dark time.

I know that God can redeem anything, and this week, Beth Moore exorted to us that the only reason we get hardships as believers is because God has said yes to Satan and God has a bigger plan for that trial. That trial will result in more glory.

This morning, I was a mess. Everything, from an email from a friend to a song on the radio triggered me to tears. I felt like I was in the middle of the desert, with no oasis in sight. But I knew people were praying for me, and I knew that Jesus is always praying for me. I recited Scripture. I checked blogs. I sent emails. I listened to Shawn Colvin, especially Polaroids, from her album, fat city. I called my father and my sister and left messages on their phones. I somehow made it through the day.

And what a day it was: calm and balmy, then blustery, then deluges of Biblical proportion. On the way to work I actually turned off the road for a few minutes, it was raining so hard. When I got to work, the sky cleared a little bit and I walked in with my jacket wrapped around me. By the time it was time to go for my birthday lunch at Chili's, the rain had begun again. Just as we sat in our seats at Chili's, the deluge began again. All day it was like this. And then the sun came out. And then the clouds came back. It's what we here in da Burgh call "Severe Weather."

At 5:30 p.m., the library had a power outtage. For whatever reason, the emergency back up lights did not come on. It was already dark outside. You picture a library full of patrons and especially children, how they might react. Thankfully one of my co-workers, Sally (yes, another one!) was with me and I took our one flashlight to where I knew there were more. After some time, we evacuated the building. At six, Sally and I left, since our shifts were over. The six o'clock people would stay until all the kids waiting for rides had been picked up and then the library would be locked and left for the night.

I had no idea if there was electricity in Highland Park, and I knew that I didn't have food in the freezer even if we did have light. So I had dinner at Taco Bell, where I did my Beth Moore homework. And I commenced my drive home. And just as I was cresting the hill on McKnight Blvd, where there's a church with a Nativity scene up front, I turned off the radio and started praying. God, I know that you love me. God, I know that you won't test me beyond what I can stand. And I started repeating scripture and recalling promises God has in his Word. And at some point, as I crossed the Allegheny River on the Veteran's Bridge, the words to the Twenty Third Psalm came to me. "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will not be afraid." And I could say these verses, which have been locked in my brain as a memory of that sad summer, smiling, laughing, singing.

And I sang praise songs all the way home.

We serve an awesome God--if we would only humble ourselves before him, he will lift us up.

I suppose I knew that someday God would return that Psalm to me, that someday it wouldn't taste like sawdust on my tongue. It was a complete and utter surprise to me when the words just came to my mind and I could feel the joy bubbling up.

It's only six verses. But how powerful they are:

Psalm 23 (RSV)

A Psalm of David.
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He 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 will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD


Katy said...

Thank you for this lovely post. And for putting the Psalm at the end of the post, so that I didn't have to go and look it up in Ocean.

Sarah Louise said...

You're quite welcome! Somewhere in Revelation it says something about the testimony of the saints being a pretty important thing, and so I take it pretty serious to share this kind of thing...

Glad ya liked it. And I generally link to BibleGateway if I don't include full text when it comes to Bible passages.

Katy said...

If you are ever interested in finding most of the world religions' holy texts in one, searchable, place, check out Ocean:

It has over 1000 books of 10 of the world's religions and it is incredibly user-friendly. It seems like something you would maybe like.

Lauren said...

I am so grateful for your vulnerability and openness and spiritual path and the eloquence with which you share them. Sing praise!

One month I read and meditated on Psalm 23 every day, and feel like I only began to plumb its depths.

Have you ever read Kathleen Norris? Knowing you, you probably have, but if not I think you'd really enjoy her. I'm re-reading Amazing Grace right now.

Sarah Louise said...

Kathleen Norris is one of my heroes. I got to hear her when she came to Pittsburgh last spring. She is...just so wonderful. I have all her books in hardcover and Amazing Grace got me through a particularly bad spell.

As for the transparency, BJ once complimented me on it and I said, I don't know how else to be! He also said I should write a book. I think I have a start...

sis said...

thank you for sharing this post, and the psalm which i haven't read in print for some time. i recite psalm 91 when i am feeling low or discouraged. it was one that my mom taught me when she was ill.

Sarah Louise said...

Psalm 91 is also a favortite of mine. Somehow I associate it with that song, the house of stone and light that was popular a few years ago...

Anonymous said...

Psalm 23 is one of my favorites also. I have a pair of Psalm 23 sneakers.

Actually I have three other pairs of sneakers, each with a different verse and different artwork. My pink Saviors get the most attention.

The sneakers are made by Scripts Footwear and I bought mine on line from

suzannah | the smitten word said...

it's grace how it echoes back around. (and it usually does, huh?) thanks for sending me here. great story.

someone else commented about kathleen norris. i'm reading acedia & me right now and savoring it. she is a treasure.