for thou art with me

God once asked a question of Job, a man whose story I had always seen as a good man going through much suffering because of a pissing contest between God and Satan. I don’t think that’s what happened anymore, I think it’s more that Satan was pissed off because Job was considered righteous, and he hated that. Satan wants to destroy God’s people, that’s his sole purpose. The question that God asks Job is a question that I’ve often asked of God. Job had, from my point of view, been rightly upset and wanted answers from God as to why all of this had happened to him. It’s a legitimate question, one that many of us ask. God asked Job “where were you when I created the world?” In my version of this question as I posed it to God, it ended up being more like “where the fuck were you when…”

I learned the twenty-third Psalm as a child, in the King James Version. I grew tired of it eventually, it seemed that it was plastered everywhere, and it had lost it’s meaning to me. I’m not sure it ever had much meaning to me until recently. That changed one day when I recited it and got to the part yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, and Jesus came to me, took my hand, and walked me through the valley of the shadow of death. He didn’t let go of my hand, and I didn’t fear evil, because he was right beside me. He did this so that I could see that he had always been there in that valley the many times I have walked through it.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. I’ve come to realize, through reciting this Psalm every night, that it’s really a statement of faith. The Nicene Creed is basic Christian doctrine and a communal statement of faith, Psalm 23 is a personal statement of faith. Reciting this part of the Psalm is an acknowledgement that Jesus is with me, and that he always has been. I’ve often denied the presence of God in my life, but God has always been there.

In the book of Genesis, there’s this bloke Jacob who wrestled with God, until God gave him an answer. But, when he got that answer, Jacob’s life was changed. From that day forward, Jacob walked with a limp, to remind him that he wrestled with God and not only survived but also got his answer. I, too, wrestled with God these past few months, asking questions that some, especially those who tried to destroy me, might say I didn’t have a right to ask. But perhaps I did have a right to ask, and perhaps God understands that, as God has allowed me to wrestle, God has not punished the wrestling and the asking and the demanding of answers. Instead, God has, through prayer, assured me of God’s presence in my life.

God’s presence was manifest when each of my personalities came to me, to help me through trauma I could not face alone. God gave me some unusual tools to cope with things that were too much to bear alone. I’ve walked many times through the valley of the shadow of death, and I have definitely feared evil. I know that as I continue to purposely say I will fear no evil, that one day, it will be true. This is why I say that during this past year, I have truly been spiritually formed by prayer. I don’t have to believe something when I first pray it, but in praying it, I will come to believe it.

I have lived through hell, and the key word here is lived. I’m still here, Jesus was with me, even though I didn’t know it at the time. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what has been done to me, or where I’ve been. Jesus has always been there with me. For thou art with me.

Published by MaryClare StFrancis

MaryClare StFrancis is a writer who sounds as boring as hell but who is intimately acquainted with the horrific and the sacred. For a long time, darkness has been her friend, but she now walks in the light of Christ. As a committed Episcopalian, her main contribution to the church is her ability to make the priests facepalm or swear, depending on the day and context. MaryClare has a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and lives in Mississippi with her four children.

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