Psalm 23 has long been a favorite of mine; in fact, I nearly know it from memory. I remember when my sister brought a new roommate into the apartment we were sharing as 20-somethings. The new roommate announced herself by putting up a poster in the stairwell. I thought it was going to be Psalm 23 and then read through to the end: “Even though I walk through the valley of darkness I fear no evil because I am the meanest in the valley.” At first I was a shocked at the irreverence of this; I understood that our new roommate had a completely different take on why not to be afraid of anything—really, is the reason not to be afraid because we are mean and prepared to fight? It was not my understanding of Psalm 23,
Most of us have been through the valley of sorrow more than we care to remember. We are in a valley right now with the effects of the “rona,” as some are calling the pandemic virus. We see it being meaner than we are as we watch the number of lives randomly taken and our lives being turned upside down. There is nowhere to go except forward and through. As Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
Whether we go through the valley with crippling fear and paralysis or whether we go through it and come out the other side stronger than before depends quite a bit on how we are thinking. If we see our valley as a place where we join forces with others and forget our differences for a minute, we sense the strength we have together as our creativity and resources and science and generosity are unleashed. We feel the momentum of being driven by love. We are surprised at ourselves when it occurs to us we are doing well enough, even without the worldly comforts we had been focusing on.
Those of us who are believers, understand that we are not alone in the valley but have spiritual presence to guide us through. Those who are not believers can feel their way being shown by answering the call to be a part of something bigger than self. We all see the unearthly love of those who walk into danger day after day to help those who are even more vulnerable.
It is a good time to read the Psalm. It is a victory song.