This past weekend the colors of the trees were at their peak around my house - the red maple leaves and the golden color of the aspens, along with the rich red and brown of the oaks made for beauty in God’s creation.
I watched the leaves gracefully fall to the ground and cover the vibrant green grass with a patchwork of color that reminded me of a quilt. It served as a reminder that in autumn everything is put to bed.
For me, autumn brings a reminder to pause and reflect upon summer, to celebrate the season that we now experience, and then prepare for the coming of winter. However, due to the shortness of the season, it also causes anxiety as we try to prepare by cleaning and putting things away before the snow falls.
And in these moments when I feel anxious, the words of the 23rd Psalm cry out to me:
"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 leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."
I wonder what the writer was thinking when he wrote this psalm? Was he out enjoying one of those beautiful summer days lying out in the grass and enjoying the creation that was all around him? Was he struck by the dedication of the shepherd to his sheep? In viewing the care of the shepherd did his thoughts go to God’s dedication to us, and the beauty that is all around us?
I can just imagine those fields of green grass, the quiet pools of fresh water, the birds of the air, the buzzing of the bees, the sense of peace that comes from knowing that you are safe and protected.
That sense of peace - if only we could linger in that moment of time! So many times this year I have heard the joke that we should simply reset the year 2020 because of COVID-19. Many of us are feeling as if we are “Walking through the deepest darkness.” We feel lost, alone, afraid and anxious. We just want things to go back to where they were.
We long for the fields of green grass; we want to relax beside the quiet pools of fresh water; we want to throw away our masks and hug our loved ones. We ask the question silently (or perhaps scream it out loud,) “Where are you God?”
The answer to this question is that God is right there alongside us. His rod and staff comfort and protect us. God reminds us that we are going to make it through this time of COVID-19 together, for just as a shepherd watches over his sheep, God watches over us; He does not leave us in the wilderness, and He will not leave us in COVID-19.
God will get us through this. He needs only our patience, diligence and faith, for God is the good shepherd who will lead us back to those fields of green grass.
Drew Bakken is senior pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa.