The richest feedings, the most restoring waters.

Ellie Manly
(written 11/15/23)

“There is a second reason why sheep are taken to the mountain tops by way of the valleys. Not only is this the way of the gentlest grades, but also it is the well watered route. Here one finds refreshing water all along the way. There are rivers, streams, springs, and quiet pools in the deep defiles…we sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God himself… [in the valleys, that] is generally where the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route…in these valleys was where the grass grew best and it was the route to the high country” (Keller, 76-80)

These are excerpts from one of my favorite books, The Shepherd Trilogy by Phillip Keller. I’ll be honest, when I revisited these words a few weeks ago, I was not exactly refreshed by these words. I knew God was taking me through a valley…it felt like I had already been in a valley a long time. I spent the summer finally coming to terms with my depression, and got to know someone special in the midst of it. Not shortly after believing I had reached breakthrough, I found myself knee deep in grief as I watched God take that person out of my life. I was devastated and frustrated. There are times it can feel like God is starving me more than feeding I am crawling through the valley parched and alone. 

The pain feels too real and it feels like whatever "good" is meant to be in it isn’t worth it.

Well, that's certainly the story darkness tells anyway - a story that sure feels real in the valley. 

But God prevails. Outside of my feelings and foggy experience, I am being taken care of. 

I have learned that God’s “feeding” is rarely what I expect. For example, lately God has felt incredibly silent. I cry out to him in my pain, lamenting every word that paints the picture of my broken heart. And then I listen for his response. I can tell my brain wants to speak for him- but behind that is just his silence I try to fill. “My God, my God- why have you forsaken me?” I say. His response? Nothing. Maybe an occasional- I am here. It starts to feel like a broken record. However, one day receiving a beautiful coffee morning with my dad, he let me see that God’s silence is actually the most loving response to my pain. I am so very familiar with sitting in my loved ones’ pain through silence. Why isn’t God the same? Could his silence be his presence- his act of simply holding me? (Feeding!)

The fight continues. Pain is my story every day. As I awake each morning and come to, I am reminded of my grief. Getting out of bed feels worthless as the depression lingers like a fog over my head. What is the point anymore?! I think. My life is so simply uncontrollable, everything comes and goes- the only constant seems to be pain and disappointment. Yet, God provides moments where I am fed every day. Moments where the tears are streaming down my cheeks, and I pour my heart out to my family, only to receive the most heartfelt hug from my little brother. Moments where my blanket feels extra soft and the sun shines on my face so I can see the magical haze of my eyelashes. Moments where my dad puts his hand on my chin, looks me in the eyes, and truly sees me. Moments where my brother makes me laugh until I can’t breathe. Moments where my puppy puts her chin on my knee, looking up at me like she is in love. Moments where my friend has tears in her eyes for my pain. Moments where my community bears one another’s burdens in a way like never before. Moments where I receive an unexpected gift and note from an unexpected source. Moments where I share a good meal with someone I love, who needs to feel loved, and God gives me just what I need to pour into her. Moments of peaceful silence from another’s simple presence. None of these were what I thought I wanted, nor what I could have controlled. What I thought I wanted, what I could have controlled- would not have been the richest feedings. These are the richest feedings, the most restoring waters. Oh, and that is so hard for me to grasp even if I experience these feedings every day. I still want to imagine my outcome- the easier, happier, and less painful outcome- as a source of comfort. Yet me and my finite wisdom cannot comprehend what God is doing all the time, I can only see the hints of his love from each feeding as they come. And I am learning to trust that these are the richest feedings even if they are not my plan or expectation. 

What makes them rich is not my capacity to feel the most joy or peace when they come, as if I should feel shame for not “feeling them enough” (what a silly thought). But the fact that they are there: my simple noticing of them- that is enough. And when I feel peace with His pure grace in giving me them, the pressure to make them fix every heartache dissipates, and I am able to simply receive. 

You are seen in the valley love, and He is taking care of you. I promise. 

Reference: The Shepherd Trilogy, by Phillip Keller. I highly recommend...a soul soothing read.