“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters ...”
— David, son of Jesse, King of Israel, writer of psalms
I walk down the lonely tree-lined street — a street I’ve walked down a thousand times, that I rode my bike up and down all summer in the days of my youth — and feel the quiet. Not the usual quiet, not the same quiet as then, not even the same quiet as a week ago ... a different quiet, a quieter quiet, an empty QUIET, a vaguely ominous quiet.
I walk through the ominous quiet at the center of a bubble swallowed by a larger bubble, at the center of a bubble within a bubble. As I walk, there is a coldness that has to do with weight, oppression. It’s very cold … and heavy ... in the center of this bubble. And I am alone within it.
I walk by the location of the school of my youth, “St. Stephen’s” then, “St. Francis-St. Stephen’s” now. I round the corner of the “new” building and there the lovely, dark Tudor rectory sits, as it always has, for longer than I’ve been on this planet, in the shadow of the church. And the church? It rises majestically, its Mediterranean terracotta red-tile roof slanting up to meet the sky as the gray rough-hewn stone walls provide vertical support like arms lifting a heavy load.
I’ve never felt this unnatural, heavy silence before. Never. And I’ve been around the block a few times. Maybe when JFK was assassinated. Maybe when we landed on the moon. Maybe on 9/11. But even so, it wasn’t the same quiet ... as if the whole, entire world was quiet. Maybe much of it, but not all of it. This is too quiet. Not silent. Just too quiet. And for too long. The kind of scary quiet when you’re hiding under a bush with the neighborhood bully furiously looking for you to punch your innocent face.
And then, it’s as if a vibration, a good vibration, ripples down from above and settles somewhere in the quiet of my soul where I can read it. It’s a vibration of words, in the form of a poem, consisting of light. I read them and can almost hear them speak audibly to me:
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
And the quiet is still there, but less ominous. And the heaviness is still there, but easier to bear. And the cold is still there, but a new warmth has entered in.
The viral threat we feel closing in on us, pushing us, limiting us, is real. But God is real, too. And the REALITY of God versus the lowercase “reality” of anything the world can throw at us is the “Real-est real,” the “Truest truth,” because he is the One who goes with us into exile, or quarantine, and who comforts us there, strengthens us there, and wins the battle in the end. As King David sums things up:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Whether in the valley of the shadow of death … or the cold, heavy, viral QUIET surrounding us at this very moment … there are still waters and green pastures of an eternal nature to be found, right before us, on high, if only we’ll seek them … if we’ll put on our spiritual glasses and put our imaginations to work instead of letting our imaginations run away with us. Call it a “God-vibe.” Look for it. After all … when all is said and done, if God is for us, who can be against us? Good vibrations, indeed.