March 14, 2021, Fourth Sunday of Lent
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. Psalm 23:4
One in three Americans have lost someone to the coronavirus. This ever present valley of the shadow of death is a journey of immeasurable pain, sorrow and mystery. A dear pastor friend of mine lost her 50 year old husband to coronavirus, yet her 80 year old mother survived. Although my family has not been affected by the virus, we have been 24/7 caregivers for our loved one suffering the diminishment of age and health. Even with careful planning, prayer, and support, walking the valley path of the steady decline of my mother’s health and well-being this past year has added to the depth of uncertainty and change that 2020 brought to us all.
Shadow. The shadow seems like the “dark” cloud of unknowing, hovering over every thought and decision and at the same time covering the light of meaningful life. What corner is death lurking behind? Will it delay so we can work toward recovery or is it better to provide comfort from pain as approaching death brings more suffering?
Even God experiences the hellish dark by virtue of being connected to those who suffer its pain — which is to say, everyone. In those places where people face darkness, God goes as well, linked in sacred relationship to the vulnerability and fear human life often includes. (My Jewish Learning, Psalm 23)
You are with me. The aloneness of walking this long and deep valley towards death is only overcome with the comforting presence of God. And although ability to stay awake to the divine comes and goes, the one who has traveled with you through the spring of youth, the summer of productive life, and the autumn of wisdom years, is holding you close in the cold winter of the last days. You know each other so well, that the loss of coherent words and prayers is not really important.
Aging will become a process not of losing, but of gaining. As our physical body fades out, our glory body approaches and our spiritual substance grows richer and deeper. As we age we should become obviously more glorious. Excerpt from “Passing through the Stage Normally Called Death,” Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard.
We walk the shadowy path together. In spite of everything that hits us as a family, including a snow lockdown without power and water, we are together and better as a team. My husband is great at getting things done quickly with his people skills and energy. We shared Mom-care 24/7 while she was in the hospital by my sister taking night shifts, since she is a night owl and loves to snuggle, and me taking day shifts to talk to doctors and do the needful. And now at home, we all are helping stay with Mom full-time, including her grandkids and mine and a few dogs to bring warmth of laughter and joy. Together we shoulder the stress and share the fears with hugs, love, and food. Our friends and neighbors surround us with prayers and caring.
The Lord is our Shepherd. We lack nothing.
Praise: Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. Psalm 23:6 (MSG)
“Shepherd Me, O God” by Marty Haugen**