In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” Psalm 102:23-28
As a toddler, I used to twirl around like Diana Prince, transforming from unassuming woman in glasses with bun in her hair to Wonder Woman. I spent the first three decades of my life believing that I was in fact a superhero in disguise, ready to emerge at any moment in my intended identity as fighter of injustice for Truth. But a the psalmist expresses, "in the course of my life God broke my strength..."
I get quickly disoriented in the face of conflict, filled with self-doubt and condemnation, and feel deeply alienated from those I wish to be most intimately connected. I am not able to heal the trauma of those in my neighborhood or heal hearts that have been hardened for self-protection. I don't use the words or make the choices that my teenage children think I should have at unexpected moments, and am without warning "the worst." More than these powerless relational experiences, is the disappointment that my childhood expectations of growing up to "be important" was a deceptive standard for fulfillment.
Who did we read about as children? The Civil Rights leaders, brave explorers, inventors, medical and scientific geniuses who discovered cures for diseases, teachers and coaches who changed neighborhoods and communities, the athlete who sacrificed comfort for glorious victories, and generally those who excelled beyond the other less motivated or less talented or less courageous or less disciplined. The meaningful life, then, is the one that stands out and is worthy of praise beyond most others.
And this is where God graciously says, "no." Nope. Nah.
Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord. Ezek. 34:30-31
The sheep belong to the shepherd, not to themselves. The sheep's identity is in the herd to which it belongs. My Shepherd created the heavens and the earth and is not bound or limited by His creation. This is in fact oh such good news because the significance of my being isn't in my standing out or being worthy of praise but in the fact that I belong to the One who does from the beginning and throughout all eternity. I belong to the One who can heal trauma and division, to the One who has sacrificed for glory, who can change communities and nations, and even moves in the hearts of kings. I can enjoy being part of the herd because I am in the hands of the most heroic, powerful Shepherd.