The 23rd Psalm is probably the most often quoted passage in the Bible. Our youth minister Joel and I were reflecting on how to teach teens about spirituality. It occurred to me that spirituality is more than just a series of consecutive mountaintop experiences. David writes about times like that with his shepherd but he also talks about time in the valley of darkness. To me this psalm is about the totality of a relationship with the shepherd. It is a relationship of mountains and valleys, of lush and safe pastures as well as dangerous ones where the rod and staff bring comfort.
We often dumb spirituality down to isolated components like praying and reading scripture. That basically results in our spiritual “how to” manuals that say the key to spirituality is to pray more and read your Bible more. What that approach ignores is that time with God is more than a list of practices. It is life with the shepherd in all seasons of life and in a variety of places, some of which are more exciting and some more dangerous than others. We often associate the mountains as time of spiritual renewal and vitality and the valleys as times of spiritual weakness but that isn’t necessarily so. The one who understands and experiences a rich walk with his creator is one who knows that the valleys have just as high a spiritual high as the mountain tops. It may well be that the valleys of life bring us closer to our creator than the green pastures.