Of course you are likely familiar with a well-known and oft-repeated verse 4 from the 23rd Psalm:
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.
How many times must I have read that and quoted it, but it provoked much thought this past week or so.
You see, I am a great starter. I’ve started numerous (ok probably hundreds) of diets. Projects – especially those dealing with what I consider boring repetition like sorting papers, clothing, etc. seldom get finished. My sister, Marlene was here last summer and encouraged me to conquer the dining room table – well, actually the stacks of paper piled all over it. She sorted the papers into categories and commanded me to take one paper and do something with it. You know the drill: toss it, file it, share it with someone. It was fun for a while, but the last stack was draining. If she hadn’t been here, I’d have quit. But with her encouragement I got through. And I was rewarded to hear my husband’s pleasure and exclamation “It’s wood!” when he looked at the cleared table!
Since the loss of our daughter, I think I’ve not wanted to go through the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve felt this is something I have to do alone. On one hand, I long to turn around and run or bury my head in the sand and pretend it never happened. But that does no good, so I start the journey again, relenting each time when the pain gets too overwhelming. I think those days happen because I go backward in the valley, or just stop and cry because I am there, and then I see a glimmer – a light at the end of the valley, so to speak. One was a message from a soldier far away, that he loved me and was privileged to be my rod of protection. Another day it was a lovely card from one of Laurie’s donor recipients, and I realize they and their families went through that dark valley too. I hope to hear from them again soon because the messages of parents, donor families and donor recipients comfort me and remind me I am not alone.
I read and review a lot – 6 books this past week. Each one had something the hero or heroine had to get through. I am now reading a non-fiction book by Dr. Caroline Leaf called Switch On Your Brain. She shares how the Biblical teaching “as a man thinks, so is he” is quite literal. Using both scientific and medical research she shows how changing our thoughts can change our brain cells – in a healthy way or in a destructive manner. I believe this is the first time I have read through an introduction 3 times! The second half of the book is a 21-day brain detox. For this to work I am going to have to commit to working through some thought habits that have not been beneficial.
Friends who have lost a child tell me I will never be through grieving, and I believe it – I don’t mean to say when I get through the valley my loss will be over, but I do believe I need to make a choice to face the shadows. And to keep stepping forward.
I see hope in the rest of this verse. One – the fear of evil is not present because I am not alone. And – God’s rod and staff are there to comfort me. The rod to protect his fold from attack, and his staff, to keep me on the path (kind of like Marlene did), to break through (from the original word meaning the idea of negation; i.e. truly or yet:—but, indeed, nevertheless) until we reach our destination.
Nevertheless… (God) is with me.