[This is the third of fourteen passages that sustained me in the while in the dark.]
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul. He guides 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 will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
Almost everyone has heard this Psalm, at least at funerals. During my scariest times in ubiquitous darkness I frantically repeated it over and over in my mind, and sometimes out loud. The most memorable time when the Psalm brought comfort to me was when I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with an allergic reaction to a cancer medication.
Though every verse of the poem counseled me at various angst-filled moments, the part to which I was drawn most on that day was: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
What a strange thing to say, “You feed me with enemies all around.” It paints a mental image of a dark and scary forest (like in the Lord of the Rings movies). I’m seated at a table overflowing with sumptuous food at the same time I can see skulking and sinister eyes of predators surrounding me in the dark. It’s in this most unlikely scene that the Shepherd chooses to feed me. It’s obviously not your usual appetizing environment. This is not a site that is normally conducive to appetite and healthy digestion. They say that we should eat in the most peaceful of circumstances possible in order to digest our food in the most healthful way. But the Shepherd sets his banqueting table in the middle of the most terrifying of trials and tests. Where my enemies lurk, in the place where I need him most, that’s where we dine.
“Like a lamb you’re not equipped to survive the shadowed valley without my help.
It may seem strange to you that in the midst of your enemies I choose to feed you. Eating a meal in your dark place, encircled by the luminescent yellow eyes of demons is counterintuitive – to be sure. But be seated, trust me, and enjoy the meal.” Jesus