Last year on this day, I wrote about Shakespeare’s sonnet 73, because every time I see a yellow leaf I think of it.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
upon those boughs which shake against the cold…
It’s so poignant. I wrote about how fall is a time of refining for me, how I find that often when I get to this time of year, I find God shaking away pretense and false security in my life til I have a few leaves left and am ready to settle into a winter of waiting to see what will grow from it, what the fruit of the lesson is.
And I think that’s still true, that I find my spiritual life reflected in the season.
It was about 34 degrees in Minneapolis this morning when I set out to go for a run. I ran down the street closest to the Mississippi, hoping to find a trail that gave me a view. The trail I found turned to dirt at one point, but it gave me the skyline and river view I was hoping for, so I stuck to it. I ran across a little footbridge to Nicollet Island, past the high school and inn there, and back to the mainland before routing back to the Farmers’ Market, where I bought rhubarb and peppers and zucchini and came home with a single dollar in my pocket. Later I will make bread and cake and eat dinner with friends.
I walked back to my little apartment. And I thought to myself, this is my life. How can it be?
I find myself living pieces of my dream life these days. And along with sonnet 73, Psalm 23 keeps coming into my mind.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I have all that I need.
He make me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Not that the yellow leaves aren’t still shaking in the cold, not that I don’t worry and feel scarcity creeping up on me and stealing my joy, but Psalm 23 has been the balm to my heart in those moments. This good Shepherd is mine, and his promises are peace and restoration.
Which reminds me that there will be moments of breaking and cracking — because otherwise, there is no need to restore. It’s not about a charmed life but about having a refuge.
Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will 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.
Up until this point, I find myself nodding along, feeling the comfort in the promise of the presence of a good Shepherd. There’s guidance, no fear with God. He is my safety.
And then we get to this part, and something pipes up in my heart that says this is as true as it gets.
My cup overflows.
Runs over. Spills out. The cup cannot contain what is being poured into it. And I find that when I look back, the cup has always been overflowing – even in dark valleys I’ve had the light of the presence of God, often shown in the faithful friendship of his people.
The cup overflowing isn’t the prosperity gospel, a hefty paycheck, a well-stocked kitchen, a bump-free ride, every desire satisfied. It’s the certainty that
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
It’s the promise of the presence of a good God, which means more than the presence of any single person or thing.
And I will dwell in the house of God forever.
*If you want the best musical rendition of Psalm 23, here it is.