As long as I live, I’ll associate Psalm 23 with black silk boxer shorts. A specific pair, in fact.
“OK, that’s kinda weird,” you’re saying. “I’m not sure I’ve ever made that connection.”
Back in the mid-90’s, I flew from Nova Scotia to Argentina. My suitcase did not.
I should have known this would not be a normal trip when I had to flag down the postman on the way to the airport to see if he had my tickets on the truck. He did not, so I had to be re-ticketed in every airport between Yarmouth and Buenos Aires.
Take-offs were delayed for me, and passengers killed me with their looks as I entered the planes. I was whipped through Dulles airport at breakneck speed on one of those souped-up golf carts by a driver with a maniacal laugh who was enjoying himself way too much.
When I finally landed in B.A. and realized that my bag had been re-routed, I was not an especially happy camper. I notified my wife/pit bull, who began making calls on my behalf while I talked with the airline personnel in Argentina (who, I might add, worked heroically to try to locate my luggage for me.)
One of my wife’s calls was to an airline Customer Service employee in Boston. Donna didn’t have the tag number for my bag–only a description. It was a new, rolling crew-style bag in black rip-stop nylon–just like twelve million other bags.
“Can you think of anything he might have in the bag, Ma’am? Anything distinctive?” the helpful Customer Service employee asked.
“Well, yes,” my wife replied. “There’s a pair of black silk boxer shorts with red chili peppers all over them.”
That’s the boxers part of the story.
The morning after my arrival in Buenos Aires, when I swung my feet over the side of the bed, I noticed a plaque on the wall of my room that said,
El Señor es mi pastor. Nada me faltará.
The fist verse of Psalm 23.
There I was, eight thousand kilometres from home with nothing but my shaving kit and the clothes I came in. My visit quickly morphed into a special episode of What Not to Wear. A fit-and-and-proud-of it guy with a 32″ waist, I ended up wearing a colleague’s 36″ Bermuda shorts held up with a 40″ belt that went around me precisely one and a half times. The slightly tattered tongue of the belt was tucked into the back loop of the shorts, which were cinched up tight and made me look like one of those saplings at a garden centre with a burlap sack wrapped around its roots. The first duty of the missionary wife I stayed with was to help her new Area Director buy underwear! Not exactly how I wanted to present myself to the missionary team I would end up serving for the next 17 years.
You know what? It was a fabulous trip, and I hardly gave a thought to how ridiculous I looked in borrowed clothes. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
That’s the Psalm 23 part of the story.
I once asked a very wealthy colleague, who had just returned from a trip to some remote villages on the north coast of Honduras, what he had learned while he was there. Without hesitation he replied, “I learned just how little a person needs to be happy.”
My bag finally arrived back at my house in Canada one month and two days after I lost it. After they lost it. The official at the airline’s lost luggage distribution centre in Houston told me with a loud guffaw that it had been to the four corners of the earth. I didn’t laugh quite as hard as he did, having just spent $50 faxing claims to two airlines that very morning. I was glad to have my suitcase back, but I’d already grown accustomed to life without the stuff inside–even the boxers, which had been a Christmas gift from my bride.
I used to have a plaque on my office door that’ Id received from the Friends of Israel. It read, “If I have everything but Christ, I have nothing. If I have nothing but Christ, I have everything.”
That pretty much sums it up.