Psalm 23. One of the most familiar psalms I have known my whole life. I still recall the melody of this psalm that we sang in Sunday School. It is a nice psalm, but in looking at it more, I am realizing more of its meaning. Specifically, in regards to a phase in Psalm 23:3, He restores my soul.
He restores my soul.
If He restores our souls, that means our souls need to be restored. That also means that there are times we aren’t as we were created to be. And God will return us to a refreshed, renewed, restored, quieted, and still state. And then, even when we walk through the darkest valleys, we won’t fear because we deeply know that He is with us. We can just walk in obedience because we trust Him. We know that He will guide us and comfort us.
And when we remember these truths, we will be still. Our hearts will feel “returned” to the place He created us to rest in.
I need this when I am insecure, fearful, tired, weary, and feel like I am on shaky ground. And when I feel shame because all I can see is my failure, and the ways I have fallen short.
When I was in color guard in high school, I ended up quitting. During my second year of Fall guard, I dropped my flag 3 times during the championship competition. I was devastated. I felt like a failure and definitely had shame because of it. It wasn’t long into the try-outs for next season that I quit.
What was the bigger picture?
Let me paint you a better picture of how the championship night went. The marching band (of over 200), that the guard was a part of, was on like a 10 year winning streak, or something like that. My freshman year, we continued that streak and broke the previous winning score, with a high score of about 99.25. My sophomore year, we also continued that streak and again ended up breaking that score with a 99.35.
My small failures didn’t change the victory we had. Yet, I couldn’t get over my mistakes, and my thoughts that I had let the entire band and guard (many of them my friends) down. I had shame, and the only way I knew how to deal with that shame was to quit.
Even to this day, when the feeling of shame comes up in my life, my first inclination is to quit.
But that isn’t God’s answer to shame… He loves us too much for that to be our end. For us to quit, because we can’t see beyond our failures and mistakes.
Back to Psalm 23:3
But when I need my soul to be restored, what exactly do I need it to be restored to?
When I question what I should return to, I remember the garden. Where Adam and Eve walked, before the fall. They walked with God. They were naked and felt no shame.
Adam and Eve are the only 2 people to walk with God, who knew a time when shame wasn’t even a thing. And after the fall, and as humanity felt shame for the first time, I bet they longed for the days that they walked with God in freedom. The days when they didn’t know what the word shame felt like.
That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But we know shame because of sin. And shame also exists, when we fail to see the larger picture and believe the lie that the ways we fall short will mess up God’s bigger plan for redemption.
But Psalm 23, this seems to share the state that God can restore us to. Freedom. Unashamed. Secure. Quieted and still. Returned to the state in which we were created to rest in.
When we are still, and when we know that He is God, the shame that can creep up in our life because we see our sin and how unworthy we are of His love, can be a memory instead of the reality we strive through. We can rest in gratitude that shame is our history, and not our future, because our future is freedom, restoration, because of Christ’s work on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.
Let us remember it was for freedom that Christ set us free. Freedom to live in the fullness of God, and to have our cup overflow with the goodness of God that follows us all the days of our lives, when we follow Him.
If I could go back…
I often wonder what I would tell the sophomore me if I had the chance to go back. And as I have thought about it, this is what I would tell her:
Don’t let shame keep you from praying before you quit. Consider the bigger picture, because the bigger picture is really beautiful. And don’t let the shame and fear of failure keep you from picking your flag back up.