One of the lasting by-products of having attended Catholic schools most of my life is that, without thinking, I can list off both French verb conjugations and endless lists of grammar. When it came to the timed grammar quizzes, the demonstrative pronouns were alway my favorite, mostly because there were so few of them. This, that, these, those. Easy peasy.
These four little pronouns have taken on new meaning as I daily wage the battle for contentment here and now. This and these versus that and those.
The circumstances of my life, the flock He has called me to shepherd, the stage of life in which I have been placed right now, the body I walk around in, the neighborhood in which I live are my portion and my cup.
I am learning to love them, and sometimes even like them, not because they are ideal or exactly what I dreamed they would be, but because a loving and all-wise Father has drawn these places, these boundary lines for me.
They are my this and these. This body, this home, this schedule; these unmet longings, these struggles, these hard circumstances, these unknowns.
It seems that as soon as I have settled down comfortably and contentedly into my this and these, pesky that and those come knocking on the door of my heart. “If I could just get to that season or have that home or a child like that one, then I would be able to rest or be still. If could have those things or hang out with those people or receive those accolades, life would be complete.”
Our eyes are always scanning the surrounding circumstances and situations, feeding the latent discontent that dwells in each of us. The news and social media bring that and these into our homes and hearts and minds with the scroll of a finger.
I desperately want to be fully present in my this, I want to engage and give myself to my these. In order to do that, I need stillness and speech.
I need stillness so that I can remember the One who has lovingly drawn up these boundary lines for me and mine. I need quiet to look back on the day and see the invisible things that are happening in the midst of the visible and often painfully mundane.
I need speech. I need to hear from God and His Word. I need to be renewed in His perspective, in His values, in His timing, as they are so counter to the ways of the world and the ways within me.
Keep me safe, my God,
For in You I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
Apart from You, I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
Or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
You make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
Even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
My body will also rest secure,
Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
Nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
You fill me with joy in your presence,
With eternal pleasures at your right hand.
There is only One who has ever perfectly said and believed the words of this psalm. Christ alone wrestled through and remained in the this and these God had given Him. Yet, He was willingly handed over and abandoned to death; His body saw terrible pain and decay. He took that punishment for those people (us) that we may experience true life beginning right now, right here in our this and with our these.
The gospel frees me and fuels me to remain present, here and now, in my this and with my these.