Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Modern Take on Psalm 23

Since I was about nine years old, Psalms 23 has been one of my favorite passages of Scripture.  I think it was one of the very first passages I ever memorized as a young girl.  My Sunday School teacher at that time felt it was very important that we kids learn several key Scriptures so that we would always have them to reference in our times of need.  I can still hear her say in her lovely southern voice, "It is good to learn God's Word by heart, because you aren't always carrying your Bible when you need it!"   Psalms 23 was one of those passages.  At the time, I didn't realize how useful that was going to be in my life.  All of those passages are precious to me today--I have relied on them so many times, they have become like trusted friends.  I thank God for this wonderfully loving, former teacher for helping to equip me at a young age with Godly truths that have stuck with me ever since.

Whenever trying or fearful times would arise in my life, I would find myself meditating on Psalms 23 and reciting it to myself to get some assurance, comfort, and peace.  As a young girl, I specifically remember saying it over and over every night for months in order to settle myself down to get to sleep after someone had broken into our home.   Our home was actually violated several times in my growing up years.  One night, my mother and I heard a funny noise and awoke to find a strange man standing in our open window, smoking a cigarette, and staring in at us.  I can still see the eerie, red tip of his cigarette to this day.  We called the police and ended up spending the night at my grandparents' house (several nights, actually).  They never caught him and we to this day have no idea who that was.  Another time, some neighbor kids broke into our home and stole all my Barbie stuff and a few of my other toys.  Their mother came home from work and upon seeing all the new, unfamiliar toys, discovered that her children had violated our home.  She called us, came over to our house with her kids, and made them apologize for what they had done.  I got most of my stuff back, but it was a horrifying ordeal for me as a very young child to come home and find my bedroom ransacked and most of my favorite toys missing. Another night, my mother and I came home from an evening church service to find lights turned on that weren't on when we left, and human feces on the floor of our bathroom.  We still have no idea who did that or why, but it was horribly frightening (and disgusting, to boot).  Yet another time, a well-known drug dealer in town broke into our home while we were both asleep in front of T.V.  As the potted plants on our kitchen window sill fell into the sink, I awoke to find him waist-high in that window trying to climb in to do God only knows what (everyone in town knew my mother was single and that we were not wealthy, so clearly, tangible theft was not his motivation).  I screamed, my mother awoke, and the power and strength God gave her in that moment was unreal.  She arose, saw the violator, and proceeded to violently scare him off (I also think the very loud, shrill screeches coming from both of us probably helped to do the trick)!  Still another time, a very young drunk guy walked right into our house in the middle of the night claiming he was lost and needed directions.  We had forgotten to lock our door (we did this a lot, but everyone did in small towns back in the 70's and 80's), and the local tavern was only a quarter-mile down our street.  So he had wandered into our home aimlessly and was totally out of his mind.  My mother scolded him and went so far as to witness to him about how he needed to clean up his act and find the Lord.  (She cracked me up--always taking an opportune moment to be a witness for Christ, even in a frightfully horrific moment)!  When necessary, God would literally fill my mother with a supernatural, fearless strength to ward off the weirdos, and I know He alone protected us.  But you still grow up with a lot of anxiety issues after living through so many utterly strange ordeals at such a young age (they would be debilitating at any age, really).  It is also extra tough when you are raised in a single-parent home and these things happen.  I was always very aware of the fact that because there was no father-figure in our home, we were even more vulnerable.

The fear that enveloped me for years after these occurrences was stifling at times.  When your home is violated, you feel violated.  You feel as if there really isn't any guarantee of safety or normalcy in life.  It is as though anyone can do anything to you at anytime, and you are helpless to stop it.  To add insult to injury, I grew up in a class of girls that were pretty rough and tough.  LaCygne was a blue-collar town with very low socioeconomic status.  Looking back now, it is easy to see that the problems that stemmed from many of the dysfunctional families there were quite extensive, (and I understand better now why those girls were as mean as they were--they were in survival mode, just to function in the homes in which they were being raised.  They were bullied at home, so they had become bullies).  But it was a common thing for me to be afraid that I would be beat up on the way home from school for something as simple as having a new pair of jeans or wearing my hair a certain way.  Every day that I went to grade school, I never knew if the mean girls were going to choose me to bully or not.  Some days you were golden and they'd be mad at someone else for something ridiculous.  Other days, they made you wish you were dead.  It was sheer hell. This is when I became exceptionally good at, "people pleasing."  It was truly a survival tactic.  When you are a young, squeamish, sensitive person, and your choices are, "suck up" or "get beat up," the choice is pretty easy. 

I also survived some horrid abuse on the school bus in junior high by two much older high school boys who made abusing girls a sport.  They would always warn us, "If you tell the bus driver or anyone, it's only going to get worse."  We believed them.  The abuse got so bad eventually that I began begging and mooching rides off other older kids to get to and from school.  The worst days were when I had to wear my cheerleading uniform to school for a ballgame that night (we were required to wear our uniforms on game days).  The despicable remarks they would make and other such abuses were pretty horrendous.  I thank God He always made sure there was someone there to sit with me on the bus to somewhat guard and protect me from how bad it could have been.  I don't even want to think about what could have happened if God hadn't protected me.  I used to pray every day on the bus that the oblivious bus driver would get a clue, but she never did.  I don't think she even cared, and it was clear during the few times those boys "pushed her buttons," that she was equally afraid of them herself.   It was pretty apparent she drove the bus for a paycheck and was in over her head with regard to discipline.  So those boys got away with murder on the bus.  I used to sprint home after getting off the bus (and I mean, sprint) because one of the boys lived in my neighborhood and would follow me home torturing me the whole way if he caught up to me.  On the positive side, I became a pretty good runner.  I saw one of those boys a few years ago at a funeral back home.  He couldn't even look me in the face--coward.  The other one went to jail for a while after he left high school.  Suffice it to say, if I had a dollar for every time I recited Psalms 23 from ages 9-18 growing up in LaCygne, I'd be a rich woman. 

On a lighter note, I also recall quoting Psalms 23 to my mother when she would be in distress over something, like money, or if something had broken down in our house and she was unsure how we would afford to fix it.  I would insert her name into every, "me," or "my," in the psalm to make it personal to her.  She would always end up in joyful tears and we would hug as we took great comfort in those words together.  To this day I recite it to myself nearly every time I am afraid or upset.  On scary, turbulent plane flights, the words of that psalm still my heart.  When I am getting ready to sing a challenging song that I've had little time to prepare, reciting it calms me.  In various times of affliction, the words remind me that God is on my side, He cares for me, and He will get me through whatever I am facing. When I quote it, I recite it from the old King James Version (the, "King Jameth" version) from which I learned it.  But I thought it would be fun to create my own personal, "modern take" on Psalm 23 for this blog post.   It follows and I pray it blesses you today:

Modern Day Psalm 23~A Psalm of David
by Stephanie Teagarden

The Lord is my Guide and Protector, I need nothing else.
He helps me sleep comfortably, peacefully, and soundly at night.
He brings me to places of quiet rest and natural beauty where I can bask in His presence and the awesomeness of His artistry.
He refuels and renews my body, mind, heart, and soul.
He leads me and helps me to live rightly, even when I am tempted to stray from His truths.  This is for His glory, because I am His and I wear His Name.
Even when I am in darkness or in the pit--if I am sad, scared, facing ridicule, or even death--I don't really have to be afraid.
No evil is lasting or can truly touch me since I belong to Him.  Everything goes through His hand first.
He is always there with me, and I am His.
His discipline and protection over me give me great comfort and utter peace.
He blesses me and provides for me even when I am facing obstacles, and when my enemies are in my face and on my turf.
He equips and gifts me with His Spirit and His Truth.
I have so many blessings I can't even count them all.
God's love and every good thing, which can only come from Him, will be in my life forever.
And one day, I'll live and reside in heaven with Him, in His home, as His daughter, for all eternity.