Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 29: I Shall Not Want

"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 paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
-Psalm 23:1-6

This is a verse that I’m sure most of you are very familiar with. It is something we have recited time and time again, and even memorized. But this time that I sat down to look at it, I realized that I’ve never truly meditated and reflected on what it truly means.

When I read it this time, the first line was particularly powerful to me. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I shall not want – this line is especially relevant in the world that we live in today, and is the line that I want to focus on. We seem to live in a world full of “want” and “desire”, but no matter have much we have find that we are never quite satisfied. We find ourselves wanting more. We want the next upgrade of the iPhone, we want a new car, we want to make more money, we want a bigger house, we want a better job, etc. And that is exactly what I think this verse is advising against this – these types of superficial wants and desires.

Psalm 23 is telling us that we shouldn’t want because the Lord is our shepherd – he will provide for all that we need. In fact, another version of this verse says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” But that’s the thing, and often where the lines get blurry. What do we really need? The problem is, we as human beings tend to have a different idea of what we think we need than what God thinks that we need. Yet not only do we feel that we need these things, but we often have the attitude of “I need it, and I need it now.” But as we have heard time and time again, it is not about what we want, but what God wants. And He is going to do it in his own time, regardless of your current plan.

Ironically, I was reminded of this conflict between “wants” and “needs” this past weekend. I was able to travel to a community in the interior of Panama with a few other people from the diocese, and we were able to learn and observe the culture and way of life. We learned that the community has prevalent health issues as well as a continuous lack of running water. Many of the members are self-reliant and produce and grow their own food, and have just enough to provide for their own family. Yet, despite all obstacles, they are some of the happiest and loving people I have ever met. As a community as a whole, they live a joyful and satisfied life. One woman that I met said, “I am a woman of little money, but I do have a lot of good friends. For that, I am always thankful. I have what I need.”

Meanwhile, I (and I assume many of you) come from a culture that seems to feel that what we “need” is to have constant access to the world of technology, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the TV, or whatever else. But that’s just it – we don’t need them to survive, we don’t need them to be happy. These types of wants actually seem to do more damage by creating a distraction from what is actually important. God created us to be present, to be part of a community that loves and supports one another. He doesn’t want us to be preoccupied by our wants, but to be satisfied by what we have. Because He is our Shepherd, we have everything that we need. And although this is hard to accept at times, that we don’t actually need all the things that we think that we need, God is asking us to accept it because He knows what’s good for us and He ultimately knows what we need.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to immediately drop any idea of what you want, sell all of your TVs and electronic devices, and move to a smaller house - I am simply saying that we should daily take steps closer to help us be present. We should consciously be aware of our desires and that maybe they aren’t what is most important, and to trust that the Lord will provide. Because the Lord is our shepherd, we have everything that we need.

Rachel Carter is 22 years old and from the Diocese of East Carolina. 
She is currently serving in Panama City, Panama. She is teaching 
World History for 9th and 10th grade at St. Christopher's Episcopal School in Panama.

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