“‘I shall not want,’ the psalm says. Is that true? There are lots of things we go on wanting, go on lacking, whether we believe in God or not. They are not just material things like a new roof or a better paying job, but things like good health, things like happiness for our children, things like being understood and appreciated, like relief from pain, like some measure of inner peace not just for ourselves but for the people we love and for whom we pray. Believers and unbelievers alike we go on wanting plenty our whole lives through…
“…But when the psalm says, ‘I shall not want,’ maybe it is speaking the utter truth anyhow. Maybe it means that if we keep our eyes open, if we keep our hearts and lives open, we will at least never be in want of the one thing we want more than anything else. Maybe it means that whatever else is withheld, the shepherd never withholds himself, and he is what we want more than anything else.”
–Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, p.179
Something in these words comforts me, and something terrifies me. Even as I type them out, I wonder as I have for years: will God look at what I’ve now spoken out loud, in a sense, and decide it’s time to hit me with the big one?
I have this problem–I believe God is enough for me today, but I am achingly unsure about tomorrow. It depends on the type of tomorrow we’re talking about, Lord. I can run my mind back over reams of pages telling me that what we truly want, deep down–who we want–is God himself. But the postscript in my soul is a question mark. What does that really mean? I don’t know.
I want many things; Buechner mentioned some of them. I pray for them; sometimes confidently, and sometimes whispering in a scared silence. I pray for mercy and help, and grace for today, and strength to not fear tomorrow. I pray to feel the hand of the shepherd. I pray for green pastures and still waters.
The grass has been parched for some time now, and the path of the water hard to trace. I don’t know how to find my way between praying for what I want, and wondering whether it will always be wanting. But when I read Buechner’s words, a small something stirred. And I like that he says “Maybe”; it gives me room to work on believing.
Maybe the shepherd never withholds himself. That’s what I’m turning over in my mind, for today and tomorrow, and for a wedge against the door when fear crouches outside.