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The Power of the Good Shepherd's Presence

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear because you are with me…” Psalm 23:4

My middle child is currently my clingy one, holding onto my legs while I make dinner, asking me to accompany her everywhere (including to the bathroom) - “Come with me!” is her constant cry. And it’s easy for me to become irritated at this (“Josie, you can go to the bathroom by yourself!”), but I think her desire speaks to the need in all of us for the presence of one that makes us feel safe and seen.

Psalm 23 can feel like a lullaby - it’s beautiful, calming, but also so familiar that it’s easy to miss its meaning. This psalm gives us this picture of God as our Shepherd - providing sustenance, rest, guidance, protection, and blessing. But the heartbeat of the poem is what lies at the very center, with 26 Hebrew words falling before and after it: “for Thou art with me.” The Good Shepherd’s presence is the punch line of this psalm, and this makes everything else in the psalm matter: God is with us - He provides His Presence, His very self.

In A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, author Philip Keller discusses how his presence impacted his sheep: “I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could, and this applied day and night” (25). He then goes on to compare this to our experience as followers of the Good Shepherd: “In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that our Shepherd is nearby. There is nothing like Christ’s presence to dispel the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown…His presence in the picture throws a different light on the whole scene” (26). The Presence of the Good Shepherd changes everything. He provides us with everything we need, but the provision of His Presence is what leaves a lasting impact on us, His sheep, settling us and setting us apart from the sheep in any other shepherd’s pasture.

And so in light of God being this Good Shepherd who provides His presence, I’m asking myself: what kind of presence am I for my children? How does my presence make them feel? How does it change the atmosphere of my home? How will they remember my presence? And I’m realizing that the extent to which I have been present with the Good Shepherd is the extent to which I will be present in the way I want to be for my children: peaceful, not anxious. Joyful, not despairing. Grateful, not grumbling. Patient, not hurrying. Humble, not haughty. Self-controlled, not angry. Kind, not critical.

We must cling to the Good Shepherd so that we can be reassured and refreshed by His presence - only then will our presence bless and benefit our kids in the way we so desire. We must live in the range of His shadow and in reach of His staff, that His Presence might transform the way that we are present in our homes, our marriages, our workplaces, and our world. How our anxious and broken world is desperate for the presence of those who have been marked by the Presence of the Good Shepherd!

May we be the clingiest of sheep in the pasture - greedy for the Presence of the Good Shepherd to surround us and transform us. And may our presence mirror His Presence - providing a safe place for our children and blessing them in ways that they will not soon forget.

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