This week has been hard. No, no. Hard doesn’t even begin to touch it. Heavy. Exhausting. Constricting. Those are all words that come closer to the sense of my week. There has been no relief. No moment where I thought that was enough breath so that I can swim the rest of the way across this in my own strength.
It’s not only what I’ve been walking through, the path cut back and forth across the mountain, with a valley on either side. More than just my own travels, it is that there are traveling next to me voyager after voyager making the same journey, bags packed with grief and anxiety, weighing down the back of our cars. That weight at times can feel like the only thing holding us down to the road, keeping us in touch with the ground beneath us, pushing us forward to places we don’t want to go. In other moments, it is that weight that though we bear down pedal to the metal makes us wonder if we can make it up again.
The valley was full of fog when I set off both times this week and traveling through those conditions felt very apropos as I walked through my week not sure I could see five feet in front of my situation. I had a hard time talking to God about it. Not because I don’t think He is listening or don’t think He cares. I just couldn’t find the words. There were times I said “Please” and cried. There were times I just cried and couldn’t speak.
At some point out of the mist came something I could put into words, old familiar words from Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. They rod and thy staff will comfort me.” The valley of the shadow of death. I have so many friends and loved ones in that valley this week. I’ve seen the posts on Facebook. I’ve had conversations with friends. This has been a hard week for a lot of people, while others are marching proud with voices raised, many more have been shuffling through the fog in that valley of the shadow.
I’ve gone over and over that verse in the past week, not having the easy kind of conversation that I generally experience in my own prayer life, just repeating that verse, trying to remember that the rod will defend and the staff will guide and I am not alone. Where am I? I know where. Who is with me? I know who. What will He do for me? I know what. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Tonight I went to class and people gathered around me to pray, to pray for me and for those I love, for peace and comfort and healing. We said “Amen,” all in agreement. Amen. I agree. I believe. Amen.
My friend to the left pointed to a verse he’d pulled up on his computer screen. Psalm 91:1-2 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
I could almost hear it. If I stop and listen, there it is. Look up. This is no shadow of death. See you are in my shadow. Rest. Take refuge. You are only passing through a valley, but you dwell in my shelter.
It has rained nearly all week, cold, damp, muddy misery falling into a mess all around me. Tonight as I walked out of class I looked up. The sky was still shrouded in darkness, but falling all around me was snow. Face upturned, the shadow above me was in that moment the wings of refuge sheltering me beneath His feathers.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I have a rod and a staff, a refuge and fortress, a shelter and a shadow, and those are all I need to cross the valleys.