I Shall Not Want

Six years old. Lying in bed staring at my wall. Too afraid to fall asleep. What if I have a seizure? What if I lose all control? Can’t breathe or stop my limbs from flailing? What if no one knows and I’m alone in this as I sleep? The “what ifs” start young.

My mom comes in nightly. Novels read. Curly Bear tucked close. Prayers whispered. Lastly, we read Psalm 23 together. Gazing at the framed verse beside my bed we read the old words together…The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names 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. You anoint 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 forever…that was the routine. That was my comfort when I was too afraid to fall asleep.

Ten years later and the Psalm 23 poster and the nightly routine are gone. I’m living in my own little self-imposed hell, not allowing any hope or grace into my hardened heart. The only comfort being certain death and thus lasting reprieve. You’d find me dead before you’d find me whispering Psalm 23. No hope-filled words crossed my lips in those days.

Countless therapy sessions that ending in tears and no visible progress (and I’m sure my therapist questioning why she still saw me) later. Countless prayers cried out on my behalf by more people than I can thank and days lived that simply left me wondering why God kept me alive. I still wanted, wanted for everything, yet didn’t take hold of anything before me.

Twelve years since I first memorized Psalm 23 and I still, I still, don’t have it down.  God is still bringing it up and washing the words over me. The seed He planted, the little lesson of the Psalm 23 seed, is still being grown.

This past summer my therapist brought up Psalm 23, that ever-recurring verse of mine. We recited it aloud together in her office, my safe place. Since then, it’s been my unconscious heartbeat. That one line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Day-in and day-out. Coursing through me, washing over me, reminders all around. I can’t move past that first line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The truth is, if God wants me here, sitting, meditating on this verse, then here I will sit though I know not why. 

One week prior to today. The only instruction, rest. Eno beneath, friend (hey Bess!) across, trees above, the familiar heartbeat all around. God, what would you have me rest on today? One of my old favorite songs came to mind and hasn’t left since.

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“I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

Just as the words and music wash over me, so does my Shepherd’s voice whispering “I’m your good good Shepherd, you shall not want for anything.” 

I don’t know about any of you, but I have lived and still live out of want, out of a place of lack. My go to is, “I can’t. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not good enough.” I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who is living out of want and throwing “I’m not good enough” around like candy.

In this first month of college I have slowly been nudged and convicted of my posture. It’s a posture of defeat, of failure, of distrust, discontentment and jealousy. It’s not where God would have me. It’s not where He would have you, either.

College has brought up a slew of things that I thought had been laid to rest. This college month has had it’s fair share of, she has more friends, more invites, more attention, more opportunities, more control, more laughs, thinner or prettier such-and-such.

In this new life I’m living, where I feel so small and unknown, God still whispers and sings over me, “When you taste my goodness, you shall not want. No, you shall not want.” We need not, no it’s a command, we shall not want.

I shall not want for friends, for community, for comfort. I shall not want for attention, for my God’s eyes are always upon me and His ears are always attuned to my voice. I shall not want for opportunities or growth or real conversation. And neither shall you for just as the Father’s eyes are always upon me so are they always upon you.

I spent so much of life, still do, living out the posture of “I must do enough to be (good) enough.” I must work hard enough, workout enough, dance enough, rehearse enough, study enough. Anorexia drove me to “I must weigh little enough to be good enough, to be loved and accepted.” Depression drove me towards, “I must do everything I can to disappear, because my presence is not good enough.” Anxiety drove me to a place of “I must be perfect to be enough.”

No grace. No grace at all. No recognition of Christ’s covering. No acknowledgement of the blood shed for me. Nothing but “must” and “should’ and “have to.” Pressure. Performance. Lies. Comparison. Want. Lack. That was my posture. This is still my posture many days, my posture towards God. But for every “I must” and every thought that makes me feel inadequate and not good enough I can counter with the Truth. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

But, you know what? Just as Jesus sings “You shall not want” over me, He sings it over you too. Just as Jesus covers me, He covers you. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

Challenge for this week:

What are your “I musts” and the thoughts that make you take on a defeated posture? What makes you live out of a posture of want?

What would you insert into this statement? The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for ________. Now repeat that statement as many times as needed this week, until you believe it.

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