Posted by: Heather | October 31, 2010

Psalm 23 – He Restoreth My Soul


Psalm 23:3  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

(If you’d like to read the first 2 posts in this series, you can find them here:  Part 1, Part 2 )

Although parenting has to be one of the greatest joys of life, it can also be the source of some of the greatest frustrations.   My firstborn was a fairly easy child in the scheme of things.  He was (and still is) a very easy-going young man.  Although he’s had his ‘days’, as all of us do, he was usually very easy to get along with as a young child.

I now find myself with another budding young man who, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has quite a strong will.   He is easily one of the most tender-hearted of all my children on the occasions he chooses to let that side of himself show.   But at the same time, he is the one that has the strongest desire to have his own way in every situation.  Of course, that is a tendency inbred in all humans.  But, his desire to do what he likes, coupled with the fact that he enjoys ‘pushing the buttons’ of his other siblings makes him a young man who tries my patience on a regular basis.  But, wait!  I don’t think I remember praying for patience…I know the result of that prayer!  🙂

Some days, it seems as if I never catch a break.  I must continually remind myself that this boy must have the makings of a great leader, because there are many days that my frustration level surges off the charts when trying to turn him toward the correct way of doing things.

Although I know Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, probably doesn’t get frustrated like I do at times (OK, far too many times!).  But, something in the parent/child relationship seems amazingly similar to the shepherd/sheep relationship when speaking about this verse in Psalm 23.   The word ‘restoreth’ here literally means that He ‘turns me from my own purposes’.   I look at myself, and see how many times I’ve gotten completely off the right path, or simply made a wrong turn.  Although some of the tendencies of a stubborn child have left me as I’ve grown older, many are still yet to be worked out.

I remember often when my babies were very small, I would literally have to take them by the hand, or lay my hands on their shoulders and physically steer them to get them moving the direction I wanted them to go.    Just as a young child cannot be left alone to his own devices, neither can we.  Without the constant guiding hand of our Shepherd, we would continue to wander aimlessly down our own path, pursuing only our own interests and desires.

God, in His grace, lovingly allows us to see this same relationship at work between us and our children.  As a mother, I get frustrated and angry during the times I seem to speak and nobody listens.  This brings a team of ideas into play that usually don’t agree with my young ones…training and discipline.   Both are necessary, because they teach our children to turn from their own way to the right way.

As training and discipline are undertaken, the goal of parenting is to teach the child to make right decisions for life…in other words, to practice righteousness.   When the scripture says He leads us in paths of righteousness, ‘paths’ refers to a well-worn, easily followed path.  We have a beautiful black lab puppy.  She lives in a fenced-in area of our backyard where she enjoys running and chasing things from the safety of her enclosure.  As she has run over a period of time, she has successfully killed all of the grass in a path along the side of the fence.   Her track is easily distinguishable.  We’ve tried to plant grass there, and cover the track with cedar shavings.  But, she has become so used to running that path it doesn’t matter what we do.  The covering we apply just won’t stay there.

Training seeks to form the child’s will before discipline is needed.  But even when children have been trained, discipline is still needed at times, although hopefully not as often as it would be if training were not attempted first.  Although necessary, discipline is quite unpleasant.   Most children I know don’t usually ‘get it’ the first time either.  They tell me repetition and consistency is the key.  I have found that to be true, although it’s not easy to guide them to the same path over and over again through years of time.   Worth it, but not easy…   This is the kind of path we desire our children to walk on…one that has been so well-worn by training and discipline, that they don’t think about it anymore.   They just follow it, and do it willingly because of the relationship we’ve forged with them.

The definition of righteousness in this passage is ‘good decisions’.   I said at the beginning of this series that I began to see a new picture forming in the 23rd Psalm.  Verse 3 essentially says that God turns me from my own purposes, and leads me in an easily followed path of right decisions.  This is the perfect picture of us when we come to Jesus in repentance.   It is the first stepping stone in the lifetime journey we call salvation…the experience with our LORD that will last us from the day of initial repentance, to the day we spend eternity with Him.

Repentance is not a one-time act.  It is a lifestyle…a day to day realization that when we make wrong decisions, we need to allow Jesus to turn us away from our own purposes back to His.  Just as a good parent will show concern for a young child’s safety, and do whatever becomes necessary to intervene, the Good Shepherd will guide His sheep on the right path to keep them from self-destruction.  We may not always listen the first time, the second time, or even the third.  But His hope is that with time, patience, and by gently leading us in a well-worn path, we will cheerfully follow where He leads.

I see my own resistance at times, and my seeming inability to make correct decisions, just like my young children.  But Jesus is always loving me and turning me from my own self-destructive ways.   As I learn to follow, our relationship grows stronger and stronger.  Likewise, I pray that as my son grows, our relationship will be so strong, and the path worn so well, that leading him will become more joyful daily.  After all, one day, if the LORD tarries, he will be leading his own little ‘sheep’, and learning what it’s like to turn them from their own ways…just as I’m doing for him right now.



  1. Heather,
    You are so right and I have found the same thing when it comes to my son. Looking back to when he was a little boy it seemed so easy to lead him because he so willingly followed. Now he is 15 and all I can really do pray that he will remember the lessons taught at a young age and continue to follow the one Parent who matters most.

    • Gail, I agree. At a certain point, we have to place our children in the hands of God, and know they’ve had the training they need. Letting them go…not so easy. My oldest is just now at that point, so I’m experiencing this for the first time. It’s not easy, but so rewarding when you see them making good decisions and loving the LORD. God bless you!

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