Henri Nouwen wrote, “Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.”
This sentiment of wounded healer reminds me of Psalm 23. Dr. Ellen Davis states that the Psalms are written, in part, as our personal communication with God. The Psalms were scripted for our mouths, becoming our cries and prayer to God. Where other books in the Bible are the stories of a particular people or to a particular people, the Psalms invite and call us into these laments, songs, and prayer to the point where each Psalm is our Psalm, our prayer.
This past Sunday we read Psalm 23 to open our worship service, and until we are meeting together in person I will continue to read from the Psalms to begin our service. Psalm 23 is a psalm of healing. What stands out most about Psalm 23 is the complete lack of anxiety in the midst of such adversity. The psalmists would normally express their cries, anguish, and anxiety freely throughout their numerous laments. This psalmist is free to express their sentiment without anxiety because they truly embodied what they prayed. Psalm 23 comes from someone who has known fear and has faced it down, it comes from someone who had wounds and was healed.
“The LORD is my shepherd.” The metaphor of shepherd is perhaps lost on some of us as I imagine very few have actually spent much time tending to sheep. But I hope over these past weeks as we’ve read and discussed the life and ministry of Jesus the “Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10) resonates and helps comfort as we hear these words from Psalm 23. That though we go through adversity, we have Jesus as our shepherd. To all of us, the psalmist offers the reorienting word that God brings us back to life. The Hebrew for “he restores my soul” in verse 3 is that strong, it emphasizes the life that God restores within us.
Psalm 23 is one of comfort, but not compliancy. It is a Psalm of fortitude. If we are to “dwell in the house of the LORD”, we have our chores to tend to. We have our command to love one another, to encourage and care for another, to uplift and pray for one another. It is my hope and prayer that you are encouraged, comforted, and know that you are loved as part of the Riverside household.