I fell in love with language, first heard its music and its rhythm, on my parents’ laps and in church. The love was borne in sound before it was in meaning. Psalm 23 in particular provides comfort to me not at first because of any analysis I may apply to it but rather because of its sound, held in the shared voices of congregations generation after generation. It is beautiful language, and I am certain I heard Psalm 23 many times before I was old enough to understand it. I heard it many more times before I understood more than the first five compelling words–“The Lord is my shepherd.” I am connected to it beyond my intellect, beyond all reason. I surrender to it.
Clearly Psalm 23 can bear the weight of far more advanced scrutiny, but its greatest gift may be in its sound and within that sound, the confident reminder that we are of a flock from which we may find comfort. It reminds me that faith allows us belief in that which is forever beyond our intellectual grasp. Here I find a sustaining paradox of faith…like the child comforted by a parent’s voice speaking a language he or she cannot yet understand, through faith we too are comforted by what is beyond our understanding.
[I wrote this originally for a devotional pamphlet some members of our community are putting together for the holiday season. I have made a couple of insignificant changes to this version.]