I’m a high-functioning agnostic in that I do ask God for things. But in the same way that, as a kid, I was creeped out every time we had to sing “My Country ‘tis of Thee, ” the line that goes Land where our fathers died, the Twenty-third Psalm gave me the willies. Respectfully, I continue to find it unsettling.
The problem is, as with most things, I take the psalm literally. With a lazy reluctance to explore its historical significance, I prefer to spend the time worrying and whining how the words arouse in me dark and gloomy feelings.
Though I don’t know why I’ll need a Shepherd, I can live with the Lord being my Shepherd. It conjures up the sheep farm of rolling green hills where I once stayed overnight in New Zealand. But the Valley of the Shadow of Death? That’s one scary place I never want to be.
As for Thy rod and Thy staff providing comfort . . . I’ve never been able to work out exactly how that would go.
To make matters worse, there’s the table in the presence of mine enemies. I have trouble shaking the image of me and Mrs. O’Brien–my piercingly blue-eyed tenth-grade English teacher–digging into the same casserole of heavenly mashed potatoes.
I’m not sure what the implications are of having someone anointeth my head with oil, but for years I pictured a hole drilled in my skull and a Shepherd brandishing one of those long-nozzled cans they use to lubricate cars.
When I think of dwelling in the House of the Lord, I envision the dark mansion from “Beauty and the Beast” but without Mrs. Potts, the singing teapot and Chip, her son the chipped-cup. And forever? Even dwelling at the New Zealand sheep farm forever would be overkill, so to speak.
The good thing about reciting a prayer in Hebrew, the sacred language of my forefathers, is that I don’t know what it is I’m praying for. On the whole, on my way out, I’d rather recite the words to the song “Mockin’ Bird Hill.”
It gives me a thrill
To wake up in the morning to the mockingbird’s trill
There’s peace and goodwill
You’re welcome as the flowers on Mockin’ Bird Hill
When the sun in the morning
Peeps over the hill,
And kisses the roses ’round my windowsill
Then my heart fills with gladness
When I hear the trill
Of the birds in the treetops on Mockin’ Bird Hill
Yea though I walk through the Valley of Mockin’ Bird Hill . . .
Anyone out there have similar feelings?
Unrelated Announcement: See my latest post on Home Goes Strong, Readers Speak Openly: The Case for Separate Bedrooms.