Psalm 23: A “Reverse” Reading – Fall 2002

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Sharing Companions in Christ with Your Congregation

Rev. Gina Campbell shared Companions in Christ with her congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland, by including the reverse paraphrase of Psalm 23 in her newsletter. Here is what Rev. Campbell wrote:

In the fall of 2001, I gathered with nine others to begin a 28-week journey as Companions in Christ. Through daily individual reading and guided spiritual exercises, we have immersed ourselves in the spiritual disciplines of scripture, study and worship. We have shared Christian conversation, and experienced ways to deepen our life in prayer. We have worked together to discern God’s call in our lives, both as individuals and as a group.

One recent Tuesday evening, we explored the Psalms as the Bible’s prayer book, and reflected on the meaning of the very familiar Psalm 23 in a rather unusual way: by writing a reverse paraphrase. Reverse paraphrasing means writing lines that represent the opposite of what each verse means to you. For example, a person might reverse "The Lord is my shepherd" by saying "There is no God." The value of this exercise lies in helping us to discover the real power of familiar words in a fresh way.

After writing their reverse paraphrases, Companions class members said, "This is so depressing! How bleak! It makes you really appreciate the grace of Psalm 23 in new ways!" What do you think? Read some of the reverse paraphrases written by our group, then savor Psalm 23 as it appears in your favorite Bible!

Psalm 23
Reverse Paraphrase
by Anna Thompson (age 15)

I have no shepherd, I need a shepherd.
I am caught in the desert.
I am thirsty
  And no one is telling me where to go.
I am lost and no one cares.

I am scared of evil, because I am alone.
   I am the strongest thing in my life,
There is no greater or more powerful
   Being to comfort or protect me.

I must be alone with my enemies,
   With no one to help me.
The cup of my life and my soul
   Are empty and dry.

I seek after goodness and mercy
   But never find it.
I have no home;
   Nothing is certain.

Psalm 23
Reverse Paraphrase
by Ken Liles

The Lord is not my shepherd
   So I don’t have everything I need
I have to work for my food and shelter
   And draw my own water and pay for it.
He doesn’t give me any new strength,
   And does not guide me in the right paths
   Which I have to find for myself.
I am afraid of the dark
   For you have left me all alone.
I have need of your rod and staff to protect me,
   But all I have is my own walking stick.
I would like to have my cup filled to the brim, to overflowing,
   But it is not so.

Psalm 23
Reverse Paraphrase
by Charlotte Worrell

Alone I walk a rocky path without comfort.
   Though I walk through the green pasture,
I fear death.
   There is no food
And I have not been cleansed.
   My heart is empty
Surely despair and discomfort is with me now,
   And I will never find any peace.

Psalm 23
Reverse Paraphrase
by Barbara Thompson

I am alone, yearning for every want.
   I have no place to rest,
And must stumble in chaos.
   There is no comfort
In this cacophony that envelopes me.
   I see others with blessings
And some secrets of meaning
   But I am not invited to partake.
My name has only a lifetime
   Of wandering as its call.