He makes me lie down

Written by on October 24, 2013

I have recently found myself pondering a good bit the psalmist words, “The Lord…my shepherd…makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:1-2).

IMG_1539My son Elliott is 7 ½ months old. Sarah and I have become well acquainted with the daily mystery of putting Elliott down for the night or for a nap. Over the past several months we have spent hours bouncing him on an exercise ball or rocking him in a chair or singing him to sleep as we take laps around the house. Most nights he gently relaxes in our arms, surrendering himself to sleep and rest and his crib. Other nights he tenses and seemingly fights every inch along the way to that crib. We encourage, we plead, we endure, we outlast him; in short, we make him lie down to sleep.

Philip Keller points out in his wonderful book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 that unless sheep are free of fear, of tension with other sheep, of aggravation from insects and parasites, and of hunger, they will not lie down and rest. Sheep can be such anxious creatures. Keller writes, “The unique aspect of the picture is that it is only the shepherd himself who can provide release from these anxieties. It all depends on the diligence of the owner whether or not his flock is free of disturbing influences” (35-36).

He makes me lie down…

Because of my recent immersion in this world of putting an infant to sleep, the psalmist’s image of the shepherd diligently and wisely making the sheep lie down has deepened an awareness of my own ministry journey. I can strive for so many good and meaningful things in life and ministry. I can get busy with the work, almost as if my very life depended upon the results of my efforts.  And in time, this sort of way of life leads to productivity, but it also leads to exhaustion, loneliness, and even sometimes a deep sense of anxiety—what have I been doing all these things for? 

So recently due to these many late night and early morning hours of bouncing and rocking Elliott I am finding myself reinterpreting the exhaustion and restlessness that I encounter every so often in seeking to serve the Lord.  I am beginning to wonder yet again whether in all my efforts to serve the Lord there is not a prevailing resistance to the Lord’s shepherding of my life. Like Elliott’s tense and anxious refusals of sleep, might I be refusing the rest of the shepherd? 

I have repeatedly found myself quietly pleading over and again with this striving and struggling little boy—Just let go…fall asleep…it will be so good for youtrust me Elliott. And in these moments over the past several weeks I have felt the Spirit gently inviting me to see so much of my own efforts and strivings through little Elliott’s experience and to hear the Lord’s invitation—Rest Rob…I am with you…trust me…just rest. 

The Lord is my shepherd…he makes me lie down…

I pray that we restless souls might all learn to gently relax and surrender ourselves to the sort of rest that the Lord offers…

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