Tired and drained, she stood by the fire inside in her father’s house, trying to get warm, and trying not to look at her father’s empty chair. The shepherd’s staff leaned in the corner near the chair, unnoticed.
In the land of the Kingdom, she wearily trudged through the Valley of the Shadow of death, stopping at her father’s house for the sad task of sorting out his belongings. “One of you girls can take that,” Sally his widow said, suddenly noticing the staff. She recognised it.
“That’s my old crook” she remarked.
“It was down in his workshop,” Sally said, “He’d made it down there the other day, but he was too weak to walk back up the path. I found him leaning on it, unable to move. It’s yours, please take it.”
Her sisters gave her his car. As she got the engine running, a thin stream of water shot out of the radiator, landing in an arc on the concrete in front of her sisters. Sighing, she cracked an egg into the radiator water, praying it would hold until she could get the leak fixed.
Obviously her father had been too ill to maintain the car. It still had all his stuff in it, the paperback he’d been reading was face down on the seat where he’d left it. Putting the crook in the back of the car with the rest of his stuff, she concentrated on getting the car back to Wanganui.
At home she put the crook in the corner of the room and cried. It was more than she could cope with. The endless winter days felt like a long, dark valley where she did not laugh and she did not smile. Again the humble crook stayed unnoticed until finally, the God of all comfort came.
Her tear filled eyes were drawn to the staff. She noticed it had been varnished. Mindful of the care taken in its preservation, she asked “Does this crook have some significance?”
The Shepherd replied, giving her some dates, and a number. “From the day you left Napier on the 4th day of August 1971, to the day of your Father’s death on the 4th day of August 1994, 23 years were written in my book. When your father leaned on the staff, I was there. Now the time for your father has ended, and you will go on. Read Psalm 23. It will be familiar to you.”
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want;
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.
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 comfort me. Psalm 23
Carried back to the place where she had first encountered the Shepherd in the valley, she smiled at him through her tears. She could see the hills, the sheep, the creek and the quiet pool by the willows. “This is the place where we first met” she said, wiping away her tears as her eyes lingered on the crook, the shepherd’s staff.
Taking the staff in her hands she ran her fingers over the smooth wood, remembering. The staff had come back to her as a great gift from the Shepherd, and it comforted her. She wiped her eyes and said “It’s true. Your rod and your staff … comfort me.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the Lord replied. (Matthew 5:4)