Where the Verdant Pastures Grow
May 31, 2018
I was headed home from the church by way of Dover Road the other day, and I was noting how much the landscape has changed since my arrival here in Goochland County nearly four months ago. The grass is high along the road, the trees are full of their leaves, and wildflowers and “weeds” are up all over the place. There are things blooming in places where one couldn’t have imagined there would be anything at all, just a few weeks ago. As I came to the top of the hill leading down to the River Road, I was captivated by the scene before me; the undulations of the land and the layers of tree tops. It seemed so lush, so lovely. “Verdant” was the word that came to my mind. That’s kind of an old-fashioned word, now, but it feels so much more descriptive to me than just saying, “green.” That’s really what it means (“green”), deriving from the same word that gives the Latin-based languages their words for “green” (vert/verde). But I can’t imagine having paused at the top of that hill and uttering, “That’s so…green!” But somehow saying to myself, “That’s so verdant!” seemed to fit the moment.
I read somewhere several years ago about how much “smaller” the English language is than it used to be, in terms of the number of words that are in common usage. I don’t know all the reasons for this, but I imagine part of it has to do with a movement away from an emphasis on classic English literature in children’s education; and for church-goers, our movement away from the King James Bible in favor of more contemporary translations or paraphrases of the Bible. Most biblical scholars will tell you that the King James Bible, in its entirety, is no longer the most technically-accurate translation of the original languages. But its use of the English language itself is deeper and richer than anything we have in our contemporary versions of the Bible. I sometimes return to the King James when I’m trying to figure out how to say something; how to relate a concept that’s conveyed in the original language but that doesn’t come across fully in contemporary translation. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no scholar of the ancient languages! But as I’m relying on the language skills of biblical commentators, the King James sometimes helps me better convey what the original text seems to be saying.
Just as our English language is broader and richer than we might realize, so too, is the potential for our faith. Just as we often forget what summer “looks like” as we are in the midst of winter, so too, we often forget or fail to recognize how God has brought us through our trials and blessed us on our way. Our ability to articulate how we see God working in our lives – our “God vocabulary” – gets smaller, as we neglect God’s good gifts of prayer, and Scripture, and praise. We forget what it feels like to say of what God has done for us, “That’s so amazing!”
For that reason, I want to leave you with a stanza of one of my favorite hymns, “The King of Love my Shepherd Is,” from the 19th century hymnist Henry Baker:
Where streams of living water flow, My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow, With food celestial feedeth.
You and I are “ransomed souls,” continually drawn to the “living waters” of our Lord. It’s there that we will find everything we need.
With prayers for your journey,