The Shadow Can’t Have Me
If you live long enough, you go through a season where Psalm 23 takes root.
Growing up in church a few days every week, I memorized several biblical passages as a child, Psalm 23 being one of those. For most of my life, the references of shepherd and staff, green pastures and still waters have stayed as familiar as ever. It’s a beloved section of scripture, I believed, for its peaceful refrain and comforting images.
Just over 10 years ago, however, a new meaning emerged. When you’ve entered the valley of the shadow of death, you know immediately where you are.
In my mid-twenties, I experienced my own undoing. My lack of integrity, my shallow lifestyle, my numerous character flaws all came together to wreck everything — my vocation, finances, ministry position, relationships. It’s the only time in my life where I truly didn’t care if I lived — a combination of brokenness, depression, loneliness and utter despair. There was no conceivable way out of the situation I’d put myself.
It seems that way because, by definition, it is that way. When you’re in the valley, in that valley, there is no escape under your own strength. I’ve been through valleys since and climbed my way out, at least with some degree of my own strength. Not all valleys are created the same. The valley of the shadow is one in which only a shepherd, the good shepherd, can bring you out.
There were for me in that season of life a few friends who made sure I didn’t stay in that valley. With gentle guidance, with consistent presence, they didn’t leave me to die alone when, on most days, I would have hoped for just that.
I write all of this because a dear friend of mine, Arthur Alligood, has shared his own journey into and through the valley, through that valley, on a vulnerable and beautiful new album entitled The Shadow Can’t Have Me. A series of one-take peformances document the painful journey in an authentic way. I know, because the songs ring true to my own experience. It’s easy to tell Arthur has lived his soul’s own dark night and has found beauty and purpose, hope and joy on the other side.
I am passing this along, because these songs are shepherding songs. They’re the musical rod and staff to prod and poke, moving us along to better places when we find ourselves undone. A world of my own making is really nothing more than a valley of my own digging. The shepherd can lift you up and show you the same.
If you want to invest, these songs are worth the investment, but even more, my friend’s longing is for this album to be a gift, and he’s giving it away as well. Either way, I hope these songs find you in the same way I was found