“God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.”
Psalm 23: 1-3 (The Message Version)
Do we really believe that God makes us lie down in green pastures, or lush meadows? Or is He a negligent shepherd who provides scraggly, straw-like grass for us to attempt to rest in? Grass that pricks us, grass that is uncomfortable? Grass that is full of fleas and biting bugs such as red ants and pesky flies that torture us? Are we dying of thirst because he has failed to provide us with water? Are we emaciated sheep because our shepherd is slowly starving us?
Sheep do not lie down unless they feel completely safe. Do we feel safe enough in the arms of our shepherd to relax? I wrote down in my journal something I believe that Dallas Willard said at one of our Renovare Retreats. It was this: the key to peace is surrender.
I thought about how I can never sleep in a car or in an airplane. I have to be able to stretch completely out to be relaxed. And another reason I don’t like to sleep in public is because I am out of control; I can’t control whether or not someone is looking at me (and therefore hide my face as I sleep), what my face looks like when I sleep, or whether or not I drool.
I envy those people who can sleep anywhere. So cross continental or trans-continental flights are exhausting unless I put my head on the tray in front of me, face down, resting on my arms. Only then will I fade in and out of light sleep.
The only person whose arms I feel safe enough to relax in are my husband’s. With him my intensities go limp. I have confidence in him. I trust him. And that is how I need to be with the Lord–for me to have peace I need to surrender control to Him. He is good. He is not going to leave me wanting.
I think of Isaiah 40:11 (NIV): “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
I can unwind in the arms of God. I can trust that he has gently placed me by still waters and in green pastures where I can drink and bathe and sleep in peace–internal peace. If a wolf or another predator should come to attack me, He is going to take his rod and run after it. He won’t let a predator take away my eternal life or my peace. I am the one who gives up peace. If a predator of disease or natural disaster or accident should attack my body, I know I am still safe in the Shepherd’s arms. He gives me abundant life, everlasting life. That death attack will be my next step into the rest of life.
But my question to you as well as to myself is what do we really believe about God? It is a good question to ask ourselves when things aren’t going the way we want them to, when we are suffering. Because when we do suffer, what we believe about God comes to the fore.
Ask yourself and I will ask myself: Are we mal-nourished, starving sheep trying to relax on a scratchy, flea-bitten piece of earth, panting for water and nearing dehydration? Or are we filled to overflowing, content in the Shepherd’s care?
If there is a problem, it never lies with God’s character or with his care of us. It’s with our perceptions and perhaps obedience or lack of it. If we are not experiencing the fullness and care of God, let us not berate ourselves. Our shepherd wouldn’t want that. No, let’s ask him for eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us open our mouths wide like baby birds that he might feed us.
Peace will come as we surrender and open our mouths while relaxing in his presence.