In the presence of my enemies
As a fairly young child, I memorized Psalm 23. I’m sure the same of true of many of you. I remember the words still - yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. I feel comfort at these words, the kind of response I hope for when I turn to Scripture. Gentle reassurance, closeness, quiet peace.
But today I also read these words: you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I am startled to realize this isn't actually what I hope for. I want my enemies far from me. Behind careful borders and appropriate boundaries. But that's not what God promises. Instead, he prepares a table for us. And what could he possibly want us to do at the table besides break bread together? Perhaps I am to serve and share food with the very enemy who I fear will cause me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Because this kind of a relationship turns enemies into friends. It doesn't so much comfort as it stretches. And I don't always like to be stretched. But I'm learning that when I allow it, I am changed.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
-Psalm 23, KJV