Psalm 23 â€“ the 4th Sunday of Easter â€“ for April 29, 2012
â€œThe Lord is my shepherd, I shall not wantâ€¦â€ (Psalm 23:1)
Four decades ago this coming Memorial Day, my friend Michael dragged me away from college classes for a weekend sojourn into the mountains.
My first backpack.
While we often embellish or compress a first event in the re-telling, they are like a treeâ€™s taproot: deep, essential and nourishing. I wore steel-toed work boots with slick soles (great for not gripping the trail), couldnâ€™t make a fire after going through a mess of matches (Michael got a blaze underway with a single strike) and generally had a rousing time. Iâ€™d never hiked, never slept in the woods, never witnessed the Milky Way sprawl across a midnight sky, never had blisters between my tootsies nor splashed water onto my face from a snow-fed stream.
We were men. We were children. We were adventurers. We were college kids.
Early in the evening, we (okay, Michael) built a campfire. As the sun faded, and the surrounding trees seemed to tuck the dayâ€™s light behind wide branches, we positioned sticks as long as our arms into the fire. Their tips glowed. Spontaneously, we raised the sticks, probably fallen branches, and began a sword fight. Swoosh. Whoosh. Feint and thrust. Laughter and banter. Two man/boys, pretend Knights of the Round Table, battling at the edge of the forest. As the imagined weapons cut through the darkness, the tipsâ€”aglow from the fireâ€”etched spectacular orange-tinged slices and circles against the dark background. Simple and dazzling. Instant fireworks. Special effects in a movie only made in our minds and memories.
A slender piece of wood became an imaginary weapon.
â€œEven though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staffâ€”they comfort me.â€
I read this verse from Psalm 23, arguably the Bibleâ€™s most familiar passage. Can I discern anything new? Do these ancient words still possess the ability to keep my eyes open to the world around me?
Not likely . . . until I considered the rod and staff. Even more, when I considered that the word â€œcomfortâ€ was linked to these two slender pieces of wood. Why did the psalmist add comfort as a description?
A man/child in the woods, I repeated actions Iâ€™d done since first wandering away from my parents. As a little tyke exploring the backyard, Iâ€™d grasp a stick and transform it into a weapon. How easy to turn a gnarled branch into a sword, jousting pole, Winchester 73 (â€œthe gun that won the westâ€) or an RPG launcher. Though Iâ€™ve seen girls do it, the stick-to-weapon transformation seems more a part of the male DNA. Is it genetic? Is it primal? Is it cultural? Is gender really a factor? Continue reading →