“When we truly believe what we profess, we are set to act as if it were true.” – Dallas Willard
One night last summer my husband and I were returning from a sail with two of our friends. The sun had set, and by the time we pulled into the cove we looked up to see the stars twinkling like thousands of tangled patio lights overhead. We stepped off of the sailboat into the small yellow rowboat that would take us back to shore. Once we were all seated my husband smiled and said, “Hey you guys, touch the water.”
We slowly reached our hands over the side of the boat, laughing in surprise at what we saw. As our fingers trailed through the water, glitter sparkled in the darkness. When we pulled our hands out it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. It was like something straight out of a Disney movie. I could almost hear Sebastian’s voice singing to us nearby. Sha-la-la-la-la.
It turns out my husband had seen this glitter before so he knew it was a certain type of algae that, when disturbed, made the water appear to sparkle.
Though beautiful, the experience reminded me of a not-so-beautiful part of myself. When I reached out the second time to see that glitter, it made me think of those times in life when I reach out for things that I want. Things that have no lasting value — validation, admiration, to be liked. The glitter of attention might be fun and pretty in the moment, but the small boost of confidence and happiness I get as a reward soon disappears. I’m left unsatisfied and not entirely sure if what I got was real or all in my imagination. A lot like that sparkling algae.
Psalm 23 begins with the writer, David, declaring that the Lord is his Shepherd therefore he is in need of nothing else. It’s a verse I’ve had memorized for many years — it adorned the front of my Grade 12 binder for my entire drama class to see — but I’ll admit it’s not something I’ve always believed.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all that I need. (Psalm 23:1, NLT)
Every time I look to someone else, social media, or my achievements, to fulfill my desire for approval, significance or power, I’m telling God that I don’t actually believe that He provides all that I need. I’ve taken matters into my own hands. My lips might be able to spew off verses that say otherwise, but my actions tell this story: I know what’s best for me, not God. I know what I need and how to get it, not God.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to be liked, or to want love and respect from others, but when I let those things dictate how I make decisions and live my life, I’m choosing a self-centred road. I think Psalm 23 is about resting in the truth that God has all that I need, but I must learn to trust and to wait. I need to let God change the way I think about my needs and how these needs will be nourished.
One thing we learn from the Psalmists, again and again, is to draw near to God with honesty, telling Him of our struggles and asking for His help. I want Psalm 23 to be a truth I believe with my whole heart, but the truth is, I don’t think it is yet. For now I’m changing it into a prayer:
Lord, I really want you to be my Shepherd. Please help me loosen the tight grip I have on all that I desire, and place these desires in Your hands. Change the way I think, and help me see that when I am in you, the deepest desires of my soul will be satisfied.