“Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Psalm 37:3
Via e-mail, I asked a student I don’t know personally if she’d like to work for me during the coming semester, the kind of work-study job students receive to help them through college, a pilgrimage which is, if you don’t already know, a very expensive journey these days.
I assumed she’d say yes. The college jobs coordinator told me she had been working in the dining hall, and most students rather appreciate an opportunity to work with profs, especially when those profs are in their majors. Slam dunk, I figured.
Her e-mail said yes. “After much prayerful consideration,” she wrote, “I’ve decided to take the English work study job.”
She must have liked the dining hall more than I assumed. Well, so did I when I worked there way back when. That’s good. It commends her, in a way.
The part of her answer I’ve not been able to forget is that dependent clause: “after much prayerful consideration.” She went to the Lord with this decision, even did it muchly? Seriously? I figured that either the decision wasn’t easy or that she goes to the Lord even with her slam dunks. Maybe it’s just rhetoric, but I doubted that—not her.
Like so many students these days, this young lady was—and presumably still is--far more “spiritual” than her parents likely ever were—at least, more than some of her profs were or are. When in the presence of such radiant spirituality, my natural tendency—for better or for worse—is to wonder if I’m somehow terminally jaundiced by my own oily skepticism and whether I wouldn’t be, well, more happy if I too took upon myself the myriad tasks presented me in life with equally soulful prayerful consideration—even when the slam dunks.
“Takes all kinds” my mother-in-law would say, which is as close to grace as some rural Midwesterners ever get, I think. And I honestly don’t doubt this student’s words, her devout sentiments, or the prayer closet regimen that single dependent clause implies. I’m hip enough to say she has a right to her righteousness. But so do I.
And I read Psalm 37:3 just a bit differently, it seems, than she does. There is something of a swap here, and I recognize the inherent danger of self-righteousness, in thinking that what I’m doing is “doing good.” Nonetheless, God almighty brokers a deal, it seems, and I honestly believe, deep in my soul, that I’m the beneficiary of his offer: trust in me (I do), do good (I try), and I’ll be there (he’s my shepherd). It’s that simple. With true faith in God, we shall be fed—which is the way the KJV translates this verse.
A friend of mine in South Dakota says the rains there this summer have been phenomenal, a tremendous blessing. “Those pastures you walked in, you know,” he told me, “they’re really thick—the cattle are belly-deep in grass.”
Charles Spurgeon says the real meaning of the line is in the word “shepherded”: those who trust in him and try to do his will will be shepherded.” But the NIV is nice, too: “will enjoy safe pasture.”
Here’s my spin on this bountiful verse (can you see your way through a madly mixed metaphor?): I don’t have to give prayerful consideration to my slam dunks if I’m belly-deep in grass.
Does that make sense?
Anyway, you know what I mean.