“The Lord is my shepherd. He lets me put my toes in wet grass.” – My toddler son
I have always loved Psalm 23. I remember memorizing it with my dad on our rides to elementary school and I carried on that tradition with my own kids. A few years ago, my kids were working on memorizing Psalm 23 when my son, who was a toddler at the time, said the quote above about feet in wet grass with the best toddler-excited voice possible. Y’all, he said it with gusto and confidence! Out of the mouth of babes, right?! It was so cute that I didn’t correct him. And, I also think he got the gist of the verse. As a Smith, my kids have learned the joy of running in wet grass from their mom who loves bare feet in grass, especially wet grass in the summer. I don’t really know why, but I’ve always loved it. So, I’ve passed on that bit of joy to my kids. When my kids were small, my husband would often come home from church for lunch in the summer to all of us (myself and my 2 kids) soaked to the bone from playing in the sprinkler. Those are some of my favorite memories with my kids. There’s nothing Bible-y about running in wet grass. It was just pure joy and abandoned fun.
And, my son heard that in one of the most beloved Psalms of all time.
The good shepherd would let him put his toes in wet grass.
Because it was holy or earn some righteousness-points? Because other hall-of-faith-rockstars mentioned in Hebrews 11 did it? No. Just because it brought joy. [Side note: Don’t you think someone like Miriam with her tambourine or one of the Levites would have loved to run with joy in wet grass? Or the leper that was healed? Or all of the other people who were healed and Jesus said, “don’t tell anyone” and they didn’t follow the rules?]
To bring us back to Holy Week, I think another person that would have loved to do this was the woman who anointed Jesus with the really expensive oil days before his death. Why? I think she saw the Shepherd for who he really was and gave everything for him. It was costly for her, but worth it.
I think many of us need more of that child-like-abandoned look at the Shepherd this year. A Shepherd who would probably lay down his staff and run in the wet grass right along with a laughing and smiley toddler. And a Shepherd who is worth every bit of that expensive oil from the woman.
Why did we lose that sense of Jesus? There’s likely a myriad of reasons that long pre-dates 2020. But, a big one from 2020 is the imagery of sheep and shepherds was usurped to be a bad thing. Many of us were called ‘sheeps’ when we wore our masks and took the pandemic seriously. Being called a sheep was synonymous with living in fear and blindly following “fake news” about the pandemic. I’ve written on that for months at this point and you’ve probably read those posts. But, I want to empathize with those of you who have been called a sheep. When it is behind a computer screen from random strangers or remote friends, you can kind-of shrug it off. But what happens when it comes from friends, neighbors, or even from bully-pulpits of pastors? It stings, doesn’t it?
Some of you have also been called a sheep in more subversive ways when you were made to feel like you’re living in fear because you won’t go to an unmasked church service. You feel guilted when a preacher or friend said, “It’s ok if you’re not comfortable to come back, but it feels good to be in sanctuary today” or “Come back when you’re comfortable, but we are going to worship together.” It’s not blatant guilting, but it makes you feel bad. I have heard from so many of you that this low-key-guilting is simply hard for you. I get that, friends. In a sense, these guilt-comments are equivalent to the sheep-comments, just not as obvious. But, they feel the same. It makes you feel like you’re fearful and faithless– when in reality you are living the commandment of loving your neighbor through your masks and staying home. I wonder if the woman who anointed Jesus with oil a few thousand years ago during Holy Week would have been called a sheep too? She was doing something that seemed counter-cultural and “wasteful” and abandoned. Maybe the others who were there thought she was not being faithful or overexaggerating with the anointing? But, Jesus would see it differently. He saw her giving-it-all as beautiful in Matthew’s rendition and spoke peace over her in Luke’s version of the story.
Shalom, friends. He spoke over her with peace. A peace that reminds me of Psalm 23. Let’s go back there again.
Maybe today on this Holy Week Wednesday we need a reminder of the Good Shepherd and what it means to be a sheep that follows that shepherd according to Psalm 23.
- We are promised to lack nothing and gain rest and nourishment.
- We are promised guidance with a comforting rod and staff down the right paths, which could include making some hard decisions of leaving friends or finding a new church.
- We are given a table set for us in the presence of our enemies.
- We are given a cup brimming, revival to our drooping heads, and followed by goodness and mercy.
- That following for some of you during this pandemic means that the Shepherd has walked with you through the valley of the shadow of death.
- He lets us run in wet grass with joy.
I hope in the midst of the dark valleys, the presence of enemies, drooping heads, and parched lips, you can be revived by the Shepherd’s depiction in Psalm 23. And, I also hope for joy in wet grass. Go run in some, friends. I bet the Shepherd meets you there.
***My kids will still run with me in wet grass. Mommas, please tell me they will still do this with me when they are teenagers? =)