Though not all bad, the year 2020 took a couple of gut punches to our family, just like millions of others. We arrived at the New Year’s Conference at Pine Cove bruised and weary. My father-in-law had died tragically a couple of months earlier, and my husband was painfully recovering from back surgery. With our spirits low and tensions high, it was tempting to look around at the other families and feel alone. None of these families are going through what we’re going through. Their lives look perfect. Their vehicles are new. They’re holding hands!
Yet I knew Pine Cove was where we were supposed to be. I had prayed and prayed during our time on the waitlist that a spot would open up. And God had provided. Mid-way through the conference, the camp director shared a story that pierced me. One of his college professors had told it to him, and an actual shepherd in Israel had told it to him. But as I sat in the back of that conference room with the lies of the enemy swirling in my mind, I knew the story was meant for me.
The director explained that often when we think of Psalm 23, we picture a lush green field of alfalfa grass blowing in the wind. This is what God has for us, we think. Green meadows and good times. I had to admit that deep down I felt like everyone else was living in the lush field of alfalfa. Why was God holding out on our family? Why was He holding out on me?
Yet the shepherd explained that this was not an accurate depiction of the passage. More accurately, the passage portrays a barren wasteland… a dry desert. Though there is little rainfall or vegetation, the overnight dew would produce tufts of grass under individual rocks. In the morning, the shepherd would lift a rock and force down the head of the sheep to eat the fresh tuft of grass. (“He makes me to lie down…” Psalm 23:2) It would be enough to sustain the sheep throughout the rest of the dry day.
My eyes welled with tears at the depiction.
Was I not the sheep? Often, it felt like I was trudging through a barren wasteland. Life was not turning out like I envisioned. But perhaps I had envisioned wrongly. In this dry desert is where God shows up and provides. He has always blessed me with enough to sustain me at just the right time, another “tuft of grass” to give me strength. Daily bread. Manna in the mornings.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
As I thought about it, I realized that Pine Cove had always been a “tuft of grass” for me and my family. When I was a young mother of babies, torn between career aspirations and the high value of the calling of motherhood, Pine Cove was there to remind me what mattered most. When my husband was working two full-time jobs for four years, Pine Cove family camp was there to provide us a week of rest and connection. When the pandemic hit and virtually everything else was canceled, Pine Cove was there to provide an escape and spiritual growth for our kids. And when 2020 finally ended, leaving a wake of grief and doubts, Pine Cove was there to remind me that this life was not a mistake. Lush fields of alfalfa grass were never the plan. Why, then, would we need the Lord? In the desert, we need Him desperately.
As Psalm 23 says, here He leads me… He restores me… He comforts me…
And of course, the more we met and talked with other camp families, we learned they were each in their own deserts of sorts. There were struggling marriages, broken family relationships, and addictions… no perfect families or lush fields—just sheep in need of a shepherd.
I’m sure, like me, they are thankful that beneath every hard time, there is a tuft of nourishment and wisdom to glean. We just have to be willing to let the shepherd guide us there.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”
Posted Feb 17, 2021