I often feel like a Psalmist. Some mornings when I go out to feed my sheep, Psalm 23 sings to me of green pastures. In recent months I have more often felt like the psalmists who have trouble sleeping. In the earliest hours of morning, I lie awake and feel close to the edge of the pit of despair. I cry and find no rest.

The comforting verses in Psalm 22 are no help. The image of being a child safe with my mother does not work, because my mother is dying. She is skeletal and weak beyond telling. My mother is receiving the best, most loving care possible, and yet I cry every time I see her or even think about her.

Eight years ago, when my father lay close to death, every time I closed my eyes to try to sleep, I saw him suffering, struggling for breath. Even after he reached the comfort of a hospice house, I could not peel the image from the inside of my eyelids.

I prayed to God to take away this image and send me a new one. God answered my prayer. I closed my eyes and saw Jesus, the Good Shepherd, waiting for my father at the border of the heavenly country. Close to Jesus stood my father’s parents and siblings, healed and glowing, waiting. Near the Good Shepherd lay sheep, and a fair number of border collies ran in a green pasture.

My vision of heaven is a green pasture so large that I can see no far boundary. I love border collies, sheep, and my family. God spoke to me through what I love.

During Advent, and always, when despair threatens to overtake you, I bid you to ask God for an image to sustain you, to give you hope. God will speak to you through the people and creatures you love. Tiptoe over from Psalm 22 to Psalm 23 and trust that God will restore your soul. Find rest in God’s goodness and mercy.

Elizabeth Richardson
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Charlotte NC

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