I’m making green juice these days. It’s messy, because I don’t have a juicer. I use my blender – a powerful machine that appeared as a Christmas gift last year – and it does a great job ‘extracting’ material, by which I think it means, ‘pulverizing’ whatever you toss upon the whirring blades of destruction.
But it doesn’t ‘juice’. It makes a smoothie, and then I patiently press the concoction into a strainer, and after 10 or 15 minutes, I have juice.
And then I drink it.
And it tastes really, really good.
In this era of immediate everything, walking through a process – like making juice without a juicer – invites presence. Noticing the moment, breathing deeply, practicing patience. I need these unbidden moments to remind me.
These days, those moments remind me that this is life. And it is good.
I cannot help but connect goodness with the things of God; any awareness of what is good, whether fleeting or deeply rooted, provokes praise and gratitude. I think that’s the best byproduct of the prompting to ‘remember’; moving towards an expression of gratitude, or even a still, small thing held silently within. Ann Lamott says there are three prayers that matter: Help, Thanks, and Wow. I think she’s on to something.
Yesterday, I heard the 23rd Psalm explained in a new way – new to me, at least. This well-known passage of poetry ends with a declaration of hope, or possibility:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
ForeverPsalm 23.6 (NKJV)
Goodness; that’s the thing I’m sensing, when I stop to look and listen. I think that a divine, holy goodness imbues presence, that it’s always accessible. Life is not always good, and circumstances change. But welcoming grace-filled moments invite connection, encouragement, a smile…simple things. That’s goodness.
I think goodness is a simple thing.
And mercy? A gift; when needed, an essential element of daily survival. I’ve been in seasons where only mercy got me from one grief-soaked night to the next. I know the depth of that guttural need; I know I am not alone in that.
Back to Psalm 23: Here’s the new thing I learned, not about nouns, but about the verb. Most English translations from the Hebrew use ‘follow,’ but some scholars assert that the actual word is radaf, and that the context of this verb most often refers to a more active, almost combative context. A more accurate translation might be ‘pursue,’ or ‘chasing after.’
Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me. Surely goodness and mercy will chase after me.
That moves this act from something passive to a proactive, intentional pursuit. And that appeals to me, it draws me in, it aligns with how I am moving through life these days, connected to something more, something good, something intentional. I am meeting Jesus through a different lens, it seems; from a perspective that opened up when I released some of my restrictive insistence on keeping things under control.
And it reminded me of a unique perspective I enjoyed earlier in the weekend, sitting behind a piano at a beautiful wedding in an old country chapel. There was a sense of something sacred in the space, and everyone knew it. The pastor was reverent; the groom exuded gratitude and love. The bride was beautiful, and I had the privilege of insight, of knowing a bit about the road she’d traveled to stand in that space. She moved towards her groom, confident and committed.
As the pianist, I often have the best seat in the house. I get to watch the couple as they stand before the pastor, move through the vows, exchange the rings. It’s a process, both in the moment itself and in the history that drew this couple to such a powerful place of commitment. I was present.
I cried. And then they moved to the unity candle, and it was time for a song. I placed my fingers on the keys and broken the silence with a chord; I began to sing:
All my life you have been faithful / all my life you have been so, so good…‘Goodness of God’
The bridge of that song has always been powerful, but never really clicked – until I was coaxed to consider a Hebrew word and ancient poetry anew.
Your goodness is running after…it’s running after me…‘Goodness of God’
This young couple, pursued intentionally – chased after – by the One who created them. That’s goodness.
The moment of grace given to me, to be a witness, and to remember: That’s goodness.
And I’m grateful.