Sometime ago, I came across a video that made me laugh my socks off. It was of a little girl walking on the road who suddenly saw her shadow beside her and was P-E-T-R-I-F-I-E-D! She was so scared that she tried to run away from it only to realise that no matter where she ran, this dark scary monster stayed hot on her trail. She cried. She really cried. But I watched it laughing, I really thought it was funny . . . until I witnessed the same scenario firsthand, with my daughter. This time, I was so close to the action and could see the genuine fear in her eyes as she tried to escape the dark creepy thing that followed her so closely. I wasn’t laughing at all, not this time. I was more sympathetic to the plight of my little girl . . . if only she understood that it was just her shadow and it had no potential whatsoever to hurt her. But her mind hadn’t yet developed the capacity to comprehend that seemingly simple truth, and I understood. So I carried her up in my arms so she could feel safe again.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .
Have you ever tried to cross a busy street, only to spot a semi-trailer truck coming your way, and to be safe, you decide it’s best to stay put on the curb. But as you stand waiting for the truck to pass, you feel a strong force lift you from the ground and throw you a good distance away from where you were standing. You land with a loud thud and can feel the pain in your head and every other part. What just happened? You wonder. Then you realise you were just run over by the shadow of the truck!
Some years ago, I was reading the very popular Psalm 23 (never heard of it? Click on the link) and thinking through all the salient points of the prayer. I tried to meditate on the green pastures but all I could really think about was the African variant of the idiom snake in the grass: ‘Green Snake under the Green Grass’. It means that camouflaged underneath the pleasures of your enjoyment lie a present and impending danger. But would my Good Shepherd lead me to green pastures that have snakes hiding in them? I don’t think so. And if a snake ever made it’s way there, I’ll be fine. He has given me leverage. Then I visualised the still waters. I know my mind should have gone to a lovely relaxing clear flowing stream, but it didn’t. The sound of the word ‘still’ took my mind right to a stagnant pool of water with all sorts of dangerous bacteria and mosquitoes breeding in it. Oh my! My mind. Would Jesus lead me there? To be bitten by insects and die from some strange disease? Why in the world was I thinking about all these very strange scenarios anyway? It wasn’t until I read that I might walk through the valley of the shadow of death, that it hit me.
As ridiculous as the story I told about getting run over by the shadow of a semi-trailer truck is, that’s how impossible it would be for me to come out of the valley of the shadow of death with a bruise or scar or any form of hurt. Shadows don’t hurt, not even death’s shadow. So why should I be afraid?
All the while, I thought the important points in the very darling Psalm 23 are the places the Lord leads us through. But I was wrong. The only important part of the Psalm is this:
He is there.
He is present.
It doesn’t matter where: the pastures may be green with a few good snakes; the waters might be still, and stagnant, and pungent; the valley may be dark with death’s shadow lurking, it really doesn’t matter the path or the place, if my Lord is there. Friends may betray me, family may deny me, my health may fail and my heart may grow faint, but He leads, and everything will be alright, if I follow. He holds my hand through every stage of my life, He’s in the boat with me through every ride. The storms may rage and my boat may toss and turn, but He’s there to hush the wind and calm the waves. And when I step out to walk on the water and start to sink, His hands are there to lift me out and get me safe to OUR destination. The shadow that lurks in the valley may lurk all it wants, I might be scared at first sight, but then I’m awakened in my heart by the Presence of the One who Leads, and I know the shadow has nothing on me. The one who casts the shadow is defeated. Powerless. Helpless. Toothless. All that’s left of him is his shadow that lurks. It’s just a shadow. It has no mass nor matter.
IT. IS. JUST. A. SHADOW!
So are you, like the little girl in the video and my little daughter, scared of the shadow lurking close to you? Would you describe where you are, this moment in your life, as though you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Know this: Death’s shadow can do nothing but walk right by.
Feel the arms of your Good Shepherd lift you to safety.
Feel safe in His arms.
And even when death stands in an attempt to overshadow us, death itself is but a shadow we will pass from into life eternal, with our Saviour leading the way. Always.
The theory of shadows?
SHADOWS DON’T HURT!