In the presence of my enemies
It’s January 2006. I got to my office early, and was preparing to drive to the airport and catch a flight to Houston, Texas, to be with my sister Diane who was dying of ALS. She had opted for comfort care at home. No food and no medication. Just fluids and whatever would comfort her. This might be my last visit with her.
As I was about to leave my office, the phone rang. It was D. His premonitions were correct. The president of the university had just requested D’s resignation. So here it was, after several years of difficult personnel and budget issues.
No, D didn’t want me to cancel my flight. Instead, I flew to Houston in a stupor of spousal pain and rage, and gave D a call that evening. I continued as dean at the seminary. D was now free to follow his heart and eventually accepted a position with an international organization he’d helped birth.
Now it’s August 2008. I’m on a platform in the university gym along with other dignitaries. We’re in full regalia, ready for the fall convocation, installation of new faculty, and installation of the new chancellor of the university. The man chosen as the next provost, one of D’s friends and faculty colleagues, would be installed as the new chancellor. My job was to offer the installation prayer.
Inside, I was a mess. When the time came, I stood at the lectern facing the university faculty along with our seminary faculty. A number of university faculty had been unhappy with D’s administration. Some bitterly so.
On the outside I was a professional. On the inside I was in melt-down, shaking in my spirit and fully aware I was facing some university faculty who felt like enemies, along with many others who still grieved D’s resignation.
The newly minted chancellor stood next to me, and I invited everyone to stand with me for the prayer. It was simple and direct. And yes, it was a prayer for me and for D, not just for the new chancellor.
The prayer made use of Psalm 23. I couldn’t find the original script. It went something like this:
Because the Lord is your shepherd and knows everything about you, you will never lack for anything you need.
When you’re weary, may you find rest in green pastures, and follow your shepherd to pools of quiet waters.
When your soul is troubled, may you find restoration, and be guided in paths of right relationships that bring honor to your shepherd.
When you go through times of deepest darkness and despair, may you fear no evil;
Your shepherd will be with you, to find and comfort you no matter what happens.
When your shepherd prepares a banquet for you, and your enemies are looking on or sitting at the table, know that you are an honored guest in the Lord’s house, worthy of the best wine in the world.
Finally, remember that this goodness and mercy will be with you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord, your good shepherd, forever.
I don’t understand all the dynamics of this event. Nonetheless, when I sat down I was calm inside, ready for whatever came next.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 June 2018