“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: 1-2 in The Message.)
How many times have I read, heard, or recited this Psalm? Probably thousands, since I’m nearly 74. For the last few years I have spoken or thought Psalm 23 every night before I go to sleep – and often when I wake up weary and restless at 3:00 AM.
But this week I heard something totally new: “You make me lie down in green pastures; “You have bedded me down in lush meadows.” I have never heard the action expressed so clearly. God doesn’t just suggest or encourage or invite me to rest. God puts me to bed in a lush and comfortable place so I can catch my breath. Then he sends me in the right direction.
This thought came to me one night as I lay in bed in our new apartment relishing the completion of the move that had taken place on a rainy, steamy Saturday a few weeks ago. The summer had brought more health scares. The need to relocate quickly caused anxiety and exhaustion. Realizing the uncertainty of what may lie ahead, I had decided not to take on any long-term commitments of teaching or serving for the fall. For the first time in dozens of years nothing looms on my calendar. As I contemplated this, I fell back into my most prominent false narrative: being productive is the goal of life; God will appreciate me more if I am hard at work for Him.
And then as I recited Psalm 23, it hit me! What if God is “bedding me” down in a soft and comfortable spot to rest? What if God is leading me into tranquility and serenity so I can “catch my breath?” What if being productive is not the right direction for my life right now? What if my empty calendar is the right direction? A huge sense of relief came over me. God is giving me permission to just “be.”
Of course, God always gives me permission to just “be,” and I have often recognized the call to step away and listen for a while. But I never thought that “being” might be a stage of life. I hadn’t imagined being bedded down to relax in the peace of lush meadows and quiet pools, waiting to be to sent out again in the right direction.
I believe that I will teach again. I’m sure that at some point my calendar will no longer have seven empty blocks for each week. But until I see the This Way directional sign, I will appreciate the gift of quiet, even “lazy” days. And if this new life is the right direction, that will be fine, too.