I have an Aunt Shirley Boelter. When I memorized Psalm 23 as a child, I often wondered WHO Shirley Goodness was and WHY she'd follow me all the days of my life. Thank goodness W. Phillip Keller sheds some light on this in chapter 11 of his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.
As the poem wraps up, the sheep is so confident in the care she has received from her shepherd that she boldly proclaims, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life!" Her declaration conveys her "implicit confidence in the One who controls her career and destiny." It's easy to boast to the world about my Master’s goodness when life is running like a well-oiled machine, but what about when life gets messy? Do I still confidently declare that my Good Shepherd is the all-time-best when my dreams are crumbling and my aspirations lay in ruins? "These are the sort of times that test a person's confidence in the care of Christ."
When I look back on the desperate times in my life, I see that it was in the dark days, the messy pits, and the hopeless despair that my Good Shepherd cared for me most tenderly. Even the things I was certain God could never in a million years use for good became useful tools in His hands. "This is to see the goodness and mercy of my Master in my life."
The obvious result of my life should be one that touches others in the ways my Savior has touched me. Do I leave an imprint of Jesus Christ on those my life intersects with? Keller says, "Just as God's goodness and mercy flow to me all the days of my life, so goodness and mercy should follow me, should be left behind me as a legacy to others wherever I may go."
What will my legacy be? Do I leave blessing or pain? Frustration or peace? Anger or joy? Contentment or discord? If I am walking closely with my Good Shepherd, the overflow of His goodness and mercy should pour out of my life, splash onto those around me, and as Paul says in II Corinthians 2:14 be "an aroma of Christ" to anyone in a hundred mile radius.
Keller concludes with this thought. "Most of us forget that our Shepherd is looking for some satisfaction as well. He looks on my life in tenderness, for He loves me deeply. He sees the long years during which His goodness and mercy have followed me without slackening. He longs to see some measure of that same goodness and mercy not only passed on to others by me but also passed back to Him with joy. He longs for love - my love."
My Good Shepherd longs for love - my love. And I love Him, because He first loved me.