Psalm 23 was written by a sheep. Sheep have shepherds, and so the mighty warrior, the slayer of Goliath, accepted and approved by the whole nation, acknowledged that he is merely a sheep who finds his internal peace from his intimacy with the Great Shepherd.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
I wonder if our biggest source of pain in this world is that we want. We want what we don’t have, and the problem of wanting arises when we forget who we are, and we chase after shadows. We are the sons and daughters of a Loving Father, Who wired us to enjoy feasting at the Table of All Things Infinite. But instead we crawl under the table to chase after the shadows of the finite.
We are programmed in the spirit for eternal pursuits, but we live in an earth-suit that is designed for finite pleasures. But God planned this, perhaps for a purpose. He wired us both spiritually and physically, so that we would have natural desires that, when attained, would taste only like shadows. Thereby, He could show us that shadows are never as satisfying as the taste of the Infinite. It’s HE that we were made to want.
These material cravings we speak of in formulas like “money, sex and power.” But what we are really wanting are the spiritual pilings of our foundation: Acceptance, Approval and Meaning.
In grade school, I can remember some of my wants in life. Being skinny and weaker than the other boys, I wanted to be more respectable, which would count for Approval, which would mean that I’m Acceptable, which would give my life more Meaning.
In junior high I wanted the same, but the stakes were higher. The rewards were greater, and the losses more painful.
By the middle of high school we all seemed to settle into the caste system, and everyone pretty much knew his or her place in school. Which left many of us wanting for more popularity (Acceptability), recognition (Approval), and romance (Meaning).
To move up the caste-system, you hoped for a moment of glittering brilliance. One day, I remember Randy wanting for Approval, but I did something that today I’m mildly ashamed of.
Randy came dressed in red, white and blue one day, from his tennis shoes and socks, to his jeans, and his suspenders that outlined a flashy shirt. It was an outfit that I imagine he spent the night before laying out on his bed, and matching up everything for a great splash of pizzaz in the school hallway. Once he arrived, he had to find someone in his same caste system to start the stadium wave of approval. The morning bell had not rung, yet, and so we freshmen were crowding the halls and acting, well, immature, I guess. (Ms. Jones told us sometime that year that we were the most immature freshman class she had ever seen.) As I came down the hall, chasing behind Jimmy Miley, Randy stepped out in front of me and said, “Hey, Carter!” With my downward peripheral vision I could see his thumbs were accenting his suspenders, and that his posture was saying, “Look at my cool ensemble!”
From only steps away, my peripheral vision saw the splash of color, but I kept my eyes focused on his face. I did not give him an up and down look, to take in his snazzy presentation, for I knew that’s what he wanted. His whole bodily presentation said, “Look at me and give me an oooohh and an aaaahh.”
In one of my more cruel moments in life, I quickly but politely snubbed him without him even knowing. Since I was chasing after Jimmy, I very kindly and with great syrupy friendliness said, “Hey Randy, good morning!” and I kept on moving. I stared him straight in the eye. I said it as kindly as I could, so he wouldn’t know I was actually ‘dissing’ him. I kept on moving —oh, so innocently— as if in my hurry I was failing to notice what he wanted. Oh, but I knew what he wanted, and I left him standing there feeling foolish for not receiving the grand gesture of my Approval he sought. I disrespected the poor fellow without me having to bear his scorn later!
Do we still set ourselves up for let-downs, disappointments, and disrespect, when all we wanted was Approval and Affirmation from shadows? What we think we desperately need, God has designed us to find in Him. Our fulfillment comes from Him being our Shepherd. When the Lord is my Shepherd, I am healing on the inside, and I’m putting my material desires in check.
Can I really be a sheep with no wants?
I’m still working on this. You, too?