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. (Psalm 23:1-4)
If anyone is actually reading this, you may have noticed that – in spite of my Lenten resolution to post devotionally each week – last week’s post wasn’t put up until this week. I failed.
“Oh, that’s okay, Brian,” people might say. “No one is perfect.” “We all make mistakes.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” These sayings are heartfelt, comforting, and completely beside the point. I failed. I said I was going to do something and I didn’t. As a part of my journey through Lent, I felt called to reflect once weekly about some small thing that God was saying to me through Scriptures and I couldn’t get it done on time. And I don’t even have an excuse. I simply didn’t manage my time very well and, although I got started on it last week, I didn’t get it done until this week. Mission not-accomplished; there’s just no way around it.
Frankly, it reminds me of a lot of other Lenten resolutions I’ve failed at in my life. In fact, there seems to be a reoccurring theme: I begin Lent with great and pious resolve to do something or fast from something and then fail at it part-way through. It makes me wonder if, maybe, that’s part of the point. Not that failure ought to be the goal of this kind of pilgrimage, but perhaps it should be at least expected. It seems a bit self-defeatist, but maybe I should have entered into Lent with some sort of plan in place for how I ought to respond when I (inevitably) fall short of my goal. Perhaps a sealed envelope with the words “TO BE OPENED IN CASE OF FAILURE” written on it and “All fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)” written inside. You know, something to help me remember that this kind of thing happens in life and that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Or better yet, I should have Psalm 23 waiting for me.
In Psalm 23, the psalmist describes God as our shepherd… making us the sheep. We are these beloved, adorable, furry sheep who are also vulnerable, disobedient, and not bright enough to find our own food and water. If God is our shepherd it’s because we need a shepherd. At least spiritually speaking, we need someone who loves us enough to faithfully lead us where we may not always want to go on our own. And in my shortcomings, rather than feeling guilty or disregarding my failings as simply part of life, perhaps it would be better for me to use these failings as a reminder of the Shepherd who restores my soul and returns me to right paths. May we continue to find our Good Shepherd throughout our Lenten journey… even when we fail at it.