I don’t sit still, even when I’m sitting. My wife scolds me often about my involuntary leg-bouncing especially if it’s in a movie theater seat, pew or bench of some sort where other people feel the pulse of my every bounce. Some would call it a nervous tick. Others would peg it restless leg syndrome. All I know is that even as I sit here and punch these keys, my right leg is shaking like a dog’s tail.
I’m sure some psychiatrist could tell me where this comes from, but if I gave my uneducated opinion about myself, I would say that I have a hard time ceasing to move. I’m driven. I’m a go-getter. I eat fast. I read fast. I just like to stay on the move, preferably faster movement if at all possible.
My mind doesn’t do well with laying down in green pastures I can tell you right now. The minute I sit or lay down, my mind revs up like an engine at the tractor pulls, you know the ones with six engines and tail pipes with fire shootin’ out of ‘em? Yeah, that’s my brain when I bed down at night. So even when I “lie down” I can’t “power down”. I’m finding more and more people are like this than I ever realized.
So when Psalm 23 moves from introducing me to my Shepherd and talks about him meeting me at the point of my “wants/desires”, it quickly moves to the Shepherds “to do list”. Every shepherd has a daily routine with his sheep, and the first thing is to get those little suckers to rest. You do know that your day actually starts with sleep, don’t you? We typically think of sleep being at the end of a “long day” and when we’re done livin’ we tally up the hours to see how much time we have “left over” to get some shut-eye. This is not how God wired the 24 hour day.
You don’t believe me? Look at Genesis (where it all began) and listen to how he summarizes his daily activities at the end of his busy day of “creating the universe”… “and the evening and the morning were the first day.” “…and the evening and the morning were the second day.” Interesting. God goes from night to day, we go from day to night. I think this is more than just coincidental.
Sleeping, resting, laying down, powering down…this is the first priority of a shepherd for his sheep because this is the beginning of a day and the beginning of a life. If you don’t get those waddling clouds some sleep they get stupider than they already are. Fatigue leads to disease, disorientation, and ultimately danger. The flock has to rest well, so the shepherd finds them a bed of green grass (a soft mattress) to lay down their weary carcass for the night. This is the key to a healthy herd collectively, and a healthy heart individually.
If you’re anything like me, sleep has not been emphasized as a spiritual issue. In fact, if you tell someone you are “burning the wick on both ends” or you “woke up early to get to work” or you “pulled an all nighter” there is something inside of humanity that computes those statements as noble. We tend to exalt people who can live without sleep. It means they are busy. And people in our culture that are busy, as we all know, are very important. It’s easy to start drinking this purple Kool-Aid with everyone else to your soul’s detriment.
That is why a shepherd has to “make us lie down”. He doesn’t give us the option. He doesn’t leave it open for negotiation. You “will lie down”…he will “make you”! There is a reason for this emphatic language. Lying down is about taking care of your insides.
The reason we stay on our feet and crank out product is because it garners the praise of the people who can only affirm the exterior, the outside picture. But the shepherd cares about our interior life. He cares about feeding our bodies and our souls. That is why this verse eventually ends with the phrase “He restoreth my soul.” That is his chief concern for you. That is his chief concern for me. Our souls.
I hate that my Shepherd has to “make me” do what I should be doing naturally, but I guess that’s why I need a shepherd. We don’t always know how to tend ourselves or care for our “wants”. In fact, we can be wanting something that’s just flat out soul-killing and our Pastor-God comes in and takes our legs out from under us, pins us to the green pasture with his staff and says: “Lay down”. At first it seems like he’s ruining our life, but in time you come to realize that he’s actually preserving our life. He knows the “evening to morning” pattern of the cosmos, he knows the sleep the soul needs to be restored. He is not keeping us from something good, he keeping us from something bad.
It’s hard to trust him and just go lay down, cause I feel like something’s going to fall apart. Really? REALLY? Do I really think I’m that important? Oh man…now we’re onto something.
I'll stop there for now...stay tuned.