Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday devo: Shadows of death, sunbeams of heaven

I know, this is a blog about divorce, not death. But in the book, I tell the story of a child of divorce who described his parents' divorce as being like a death that never ended.  And truly, divorce is the death of a marriage and of many hopes and dreams for the couple, their children, their families, and their friends.

So, during this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter, it seems appropriate to talk about death, especially on a blog about divorce.

Last week, I was meditating on the twenty-third Psalm, the one so often read at funerals or printed on the little memorial cards handed out at funerals.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Excuse the Shakespearean English, but I learned these verses as a very young girl in the King James Version and they just don't sound right to my ears in other translations.

Maybe it's the inundation of social media; maybe it's the fact that I (and most of my friends) are on the other side of the hill; maybe it's just coincidence or heightened perception -- but it seems like there is an awful lot of death, and walks through valleys of shadows of death, all around me.

And yet, when I thought of these words last week, it occurred to me that this could easily be what is referred to as a Messianic psalm -- a psalm about Jesus, as much as it is about the writer or about us the readers.

Who better than Jesus knows what it is like to walk through the deep, dark valley gloomed over with shadows of death? And if ever anyone had reason to fear evil in that moment, it was Jesus, knowing as he did that he was about to wear the mantle of humanity's sin in all of its wretchedness and depravity while hanging on a device of torture, on public display, while insults were hurled at him. Somehow after wrestling with this coming reality in Gethsemane, he found comfort.

He ate a meal in the presence of an enemy, one who would betray him to his death for a price. During his short earthly life, goodness and mercy followed Jesus around like the most devoted of his disciples.

And, the good news for Jesus, the good news for all of us who look forward to an Easter Sunday after Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the good news for everyone who has ever or will ever trudge through a valley filled with shadows of death, is that Jesus walked straight through the shadow and came out on the other side to live in the sun-drenched house of the Lord forever.


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