Scripture in the time of Covid19 speaks to us in surprising ways. Familiar passages we thought we fully understood, have fresh meanings. Sometimes a phrase leaps out at us, having read it before, but this time there is something we didn’t catch in the past. I was reading a passage in I Peter when the reference to Jesus being the “Shepherd and Guardian of your souls,” did just that.
I’m not sure how I managed to miss that phrase, “Guardian of your souls” before. In Christian theology one’s soul embodies: The vital breath of life, the seat of affections and will, the self, a person’s distinct identity. In reflecting on what it means for Jesus to be both the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul, I thought of a poem I wrote many years ago.
Almost without warning endings come
Catch us unaware of time gone past
Yet journeying backwards
Sketched as a feather separates the sand
Are waymarks leading to the ending time.
It is as though designed by some unseen hand
A single strand of spiders web weaves through all life
Intricately sewn in place
And I had followed that fragile line
Through storm and trial
Glimpsing it only now and then
Yet following, as if a force propelled me there.
Till I came to now, this place, this time.
Stepping uneasily through a broken wall,
I startle as I turn round,
Only to see it firmly close behind.
I remember the way I was guided through crisis and loss in the period I wrote the poem. I wondered how my life could have taken such a painful turn. I was barely hanging on to a fragile faith. Yet it was during that period people came into my life at just the exact time I needed that person. While sorting through books in the church library, words from one, leapt off the page and into my heart. As I see more clearly how my soul has been guarded, it comes to me that even as Jesus is and has been the Guardian of my soul . . . Jesus is also the Guardian of the souls of all I love.
The unseen hand – Jesus the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls.
“Now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” I Peter 2:25b