When we are very familiar with something, be it a place we inhabit or a text from Scripture, we can slide over the experience with only half a mind and miss the significance. Take Psalm 23, the great Shepherd Psalm, for example. Many of us fall back on that text when asked to recite something from Scripture because it is the one that jumps most easily to our lips, so occasionally it helps when praying to adapt the translation in order to wake us up to new depth.
I am not a fan of changing words just to be trendy and sometimes updating takes the reverence out of a traditional text for me. Not so with Stephen Mitchell’s interpretation of the Psalms or Lynn Bauman’s translation and commentary (which I use frequently in the morning). Two suggestions in Bauman’s notes gave me pause this morning. You might use them as you reflect on your favorite translation.
- Imagine that this psalm does not refer to the world outside you, but speaks to an interior space or place within your own being. As you do, mark the shifts in relationship between yourself as a “sheep” needing guidance, and God as shepherd guiding you. Note also the changing landscapes of the soul as you are led through this inner pilgrimage.
- Which part of this journey holds the most significance and poignancy for you at this moment in time? Meditate on those words throughout the day. Ask yourself…”How do I need the care and guidance of the Shepherd at this time in my life?” (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.55)