When I was in graduate school I studied the text of Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm, because I was covering Keith Green’s version of it on a record I was finishing up. Out of this study I discovered that the phrase “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” was interpreted by some scholars to mean, “Surely goodness and mercy will hunt me down all the days of my life.”
The difference between being followed and being hunted is striking. It infers that we will be caught. In other words, Goodness and Mercy will beat out any other pursuers, and we cannot outrun them! Yet who doesn’t, with some regularity, feel the pursuit of that which is neither good nor merciful?
I have felt the excruciating and exiling judgment of words—like rocks—hurled by those who have felt entitled to hurl them. I have known bullies who were being bullies in God’s name. I have been hard on myself—perhaps harder than almost anyone will ever be. Yes, bullies can be on the outside of a person and on the inside of a person.
Many, though certainly not all, of our enemies and monsters live inside us: internalized voices, traumatized and traumatizing parents, experiences, heartbreaks, judgments, sermons, perfectionist theologies…the list goes on.
On any given day, self-doubt or fear can rise in me. A singer-songwriter as well as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, I am the complexity of both the artist and the healer. I am healing, and I need to be healed. I sing my life to you so you can feel hope, but I do so out of the struggle to find hope in the midst of all the loss and being lost.
God’s goodness and mercy have been present over and over and over again.
Goodness and Mercy find me; then, I can find myself in the light of their loving presence. This light is bigger than the harsh words of years, and it comes in many forms: friends, mentors, partners, children, thoughts, senses. Like the ten seals I saw today in the water, barking their presence and splashing about like children—this was the goodness I needed in the midst of rising grief at the end of my day.
I am losing my mum to Alzheimer’s. Mum is losing her mind to untold stories and unreached parts of herself. I can only hope that, even now, Jesus is there, ushering her forward to the place she has imagined. But like all of us, she is not there yet. She is not done yet with this life and this body; nor am I.
I journey embodied and feel the weight of that which I know and that which I do not know. I know that the bullies lose, but then they come back for another try. Sometimes it feels like they’re winning, and my fear gets the best of me. I wept in my car after the blessing of barking seals and wind and waves. This is Mercy. Tears are Goodness.
I was taught young that I should be done. Am I done yet? Have I become the person I was meant to be? No, but I am carried by merciful currents and traveling where I need to be. It is not all up to me. I fall back into the arms of an eternal kindness, a pulsing patience, a penetrating gentleness. I keep being found over and over again.
With all that my life brings—the multitude of opportunities for the bullies to throw stones—I will continue to believe that I will be caught by Goodness and Mercy. I will sing, “I love the way all that is lost still finds its way.” Goodness and Mercy are hunting me down; I will be—and am being—moment by moment pursued and found.
“Some would say Jesus is sitting up there, but I would say Jesus is sitting down here, raising a glass to a hard work’s day done, and toasting us all for the way that love’s won.”
Deb lives with her partner Anya and their old and feisty dog, Celtie, in Seattle, Washington. She writes, records, and performs her music regularly and sees clients in her private practice in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. She enjoys both short and long-term work with clients who decide they want a better understanding of their own lives and journeys. She works with men and women, ranging in age from teenagers to seniors. Discover more about her counseling practice at www.growdeeproutes.com. Deb will celebrate the release of her fifth album this spring, a live recording spanning twenty years of songwriting. You can discover more about Deb’s music at www.debmontgomery.com