We don't go to the mall very often, but this weekend we stopped by our local mall for a food court dinner. And being there reinforced once again how easy it is to be a consumer in our society. Hey, a Cinnabon sounds good. Maybe a pretzel. Look, a coconut creme latte. And that's just the food court - never mind the stores themselves. I dropped into a gaming store and glanced at enticing new Heroclix and Star Wars miniatures before fleeing.
Several years ago while having a personal retreat experience, I meditated on Psalm 23, and even though it's such a familiar passage, the line "I shall not want" jumped out at me in a fresh way. It occurred to me that there's so much that I want. I want to try a new Frappucino flavor. I want to pick up some more comic books. I want season 3 of Lost to come out on DVD sooner. Sometimes it's material stuff, but often it's not - I want my kids to behave better, I want more time to read, I want clarity on some decisions. Regardless, I want this or that. And the psalmist says, "I shall not want."
Of course, the notion behind not wanting is directly tied to God's identity as shepherd - his provision, his protection, his guidance and care. It's because God is truly our shepherd that we truly lack for nothing. And it occurs to me that a direct implication of this is that not only should we not want, but that we should also be channels of provision for those who are in want. Just like a key practical implication of the Lord's Prayer is that if God has provided for our own daily bread, then we should extend that prayer to others who do not have daily bread and see if there are ways that we can provide daily bread for them.
Also this weekend I read an article about "nature deficit disorder" (a term popularized by Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods) and the fact that our kids spend far more time indoors playing with video games and electronics than they do outside in nature. In response, there are movements now advocating "No Child Left Inside" to get kids playing outdoors. And it occurs to me that there's a direct connection between verse 1 and verse 2 of Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. And how exactly does the Lord shepherd me? He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.
In other words, he gets us out into his good creation. For those of us surrounded by suburban consumer culture of malls and big box stores, one of the main ways that we can counteract consumer covetousness is to enjoy the natural world that God has created. We can go for walks in the woods, play in parks, breathe fresh air. That's a primary way that he restores our souls. So Ellen and I took the kids for a walk last night, and we chatted with some neighbors and played hide-and-seek in the park. That was more restorative to our souls than any consumer purchase we could have made. Thanks be to God.