We've been on a journey through a harrowing valley in recent months. One night, I woke at 2:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep until 4:30am. (I woke my husband at 4:15am to talk to him, and passed on the sleeplessness!) Each of us walks "through the valley of the shadow of death" every day. Some days, we're don't encounter death as closely as on other days, but then there may be weeks and months on end where death, to all appearances, reigns unchallenged. Death takes various forms in our communities: injustice, slander, deceit, lies, avoidance of the truth, covering up and rationalizing evil choices, breaking one's word (unfaithfulness), assault, greed, partiality toward one's social/ethnic/racial/gender group, friends, or cronies, coveting another's gifts or accomplishments, sloth, irresponsibility, arrogance, insolence, boastful words, conflicts, ruthless behavior, theft, and of course, the final enemy - death itself...
On that one night of many that I lay sleepless, Psalm 23 kept running through my head. I thought through each verse over and over again, and suddenly I was riveted by a new facet of a verse I'd had memorized since childhood:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me..."
The LORD is our shepherd.
Who are you walking with in the valleys shadowed by death, today? Is it the one who will kill you in the dark, or abandon you, or who will lay down his life for you? Who comforts you? Whom do you follow there? Is the shepherd you follow the one who teaches you to rationalize lying to others, covering up sin, dismissing or deceiving others to win in "business," taking credit for others' ideas or work, and favoring people who have money, position and status? Or, is the shepherd you follow the One who authors truth, grace and life? Does your shepherd drive you down paths of unrighteousness, spurred and goaded by fear, loss on income, and threats of retribution? Or, does your shepherd lead you gently in paths of righteousness in your relationships with everyone your life touches? If you find yourself reacting unrighteously toward others and toward loved ones, check whom you're following and what belief has led you astray!
So, that was the question that stuck with me and kept me awake. That was the question I turned over to my husband so I could sleep again. WHO IS WITH US, AND WHO ARE WE FOLLOWING in this valley shadowed by death?
We recall, "There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 14:12) "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
In the Day of the Lord, we will be accountable for our choices, for whether they have harmed or blessed others, for whether we loved or hated, for whether we strove for ourselves or served one another. This video gives a glimpse of the magnitude of each person's choice: A Thousand Questions. "Here I am, send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) Although each of us seems small in contrast to the pervasiveness of injustice, each of us can stand in the power of the Holy Spirit against the enemies which are not flesh and blood.