When a Child Reads Psalm 23

A tiny voice cut through the background of our conversation. My friend’s voice muffled as she responded to her daughter. I could imagine her standing there, her face serious as she laid out her request with all the rhetorical powers of a six year old.

“Diana,” my friend said into the phone, “she wants to read you Psalm 23. She’s been practicing.” 

A high little-girl voice came through the phone then: 

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

I stared out at our stripped maple tree as it bobbed and twisted in the wind. I watched the rain fall, watched it bead and drip from the branches. The window glass was cool under my forehead. 


“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” 

The words came with mechanical precision. She was proud to read them by herself. But behind each carefully pronounced word were truths she had yet to experience. For her, they were words on a page. For me, they were anchors. They were lifelines that kept me tethered. They were deep desires in my heart.

I closed my eyes against tears and listened.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

She didn’t know the power of the words she repeated. She hadn’t tasted the myriad pains that made them a comfort. She had not felt the ache of loss or the this-should-not-be of death. She had not wept through the dark valleys of shattered dreams, fleeting health, or the world’s marathon of injustices. She had yet to fear evil. She had not longed for those quiet, still, restorative oases of God’s presence. She had not discovered the hidden treasure of inexplicable joy. She had not felt the weight of faith.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” 

When she finished, and I said an emphatic “good job,” I exhaled an amen to the unknowing prophet of a child’s voice.