I was terrified of Psalm 23. It wasn't the shadow of the valley of death part, or the eating with one's enemies part. It was this: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." When I was memorizing that as a six year old, all I could think was, "Why on earth would anyone want to say they don't want the Lord?" Seemed like we went to church to tell God how much we did need Him and here I was saying that even though he was my shepherd, I didn't want him. And what was a shepherd anyway?
Despite my lack of understanding of Psalm 23, I memorized its verses and said it on a Sunday morning with my fellow first graders in Mrs. Stevens' class. I said them because I loved Mrs. Stevens and I liked the phrases "green pastures" and "leads me beside still waters." I liked that scene. I also liked being in a group saying the words together.
It wasn't until later that I realized the idea that because God is my shepherd, I don't need to want. It was quite a relief to me when I understood that I didn't have to proclaim I didn't want God (Although, I haven't kicked the habit of wanting......a bigger house, to be a writer, to know how to highlight my own hair, to have my children listen to me.....). Today, I am thankful for both my understanding of the Psalm as I am for the memory of me saying it when I was a first grader.
Hadley went to VBS last week. When we sign-up, we get a t-shirt and a CD on the first day. We did the program last year and the CD has been in our car ever since. She and Harper loved the songs and were thrilled to get another CD with new songs on them. We were listening to the songs on the way to VBS Tuesday morning, and I could hear Hadley murmuring the words. I looked at her from the rearview mirror and smiled because she had her signature "I'm learning this stuff" face on: eyes sort of glazed over, mouth open, eyebrows burrowed. I knew that by the time Friday rolled around she'd be singing these songs loudly and with a passion.
I was right.
I don't know how much of these songs she understands, but I do know she loved singing and dancing on stage with the other kids. I know that she loved screaming "THANK YOU GOD" after learned phrases throughout the week such as "God Listens," or "God Loves You No Matter What." And while she was playing at home it was lovely to hear her singing the words to bits of the songs: "I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, your power throughout the universe displayed" or "God is watchin', watchin' over you."
Her experience with VBS reminds me of the book The Song of Francis by Tomie DePaola. (Perhaps this should be a post for my Sit a While blog, but I'm beginning to get confused about where to write what.) In the story, Francis of Asissi is filled with the love of God and wants to sing. However, there is no one to hear him. An angel tells him to sing anyway. So Francis does and soon, different parts of creation come to listen and eventually join in.
I think Hadley (and Harper too - she knows the songs even though she didn't go to VBS) experienced that "sing anyway" concept this week, and I think I first experienced it in Sunday School years ago. We won't always know the words to the songs we sing, and quite honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever understand God's love, His grace, His forgiveness.....for me the list goes on. But we should sing anyway. Or write. Or dance. Or bake something delicious. I think it's in the trying and the joining in that we understand a little more of God.