Psalm 23 – Where are the green pastures??

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The 23rd psalm–such a familiar and beloved psalm–

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….”

Unlike many other familiar Biblical passages, it is, perhaps, a passage

that remains most familiar to many people in the language of the King James Bible:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

For thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me….”

Even the rhythm of the words seems to bring comfort,

In addition to the assurance that the words themselves convey!

It’s a psalm of trust, a song of comfort,

a declaration of quiet confidence in the power, the compassion, the benevolence,

and the Goodness of God.

 

There’s one verse in particular, however, that is speaking to me as I read this psalm today.

One part of one verse, in fact, that is calling me to deeper reflection:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures….” (Ps. 23:2a, NRSV)

 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures….”  What’s not to like?

Lush, green pastures, with pillowy tufts of grass inviting me to lie down and rest….

Lush, green pastures, ready and waiting for me to pause, sink down into them,

and be rejuvenated…

Of course, God would want, would invite, me to lie down in such a place

If God’s purpose was that my soul might be restored (cf. vs 2b)!

Would my soul be restored by, say, lying down in a barren, parched desert?  I don’t think so….

Would my soul be restored by resting in a crowded, noisy shopping mall?  Not so much….

Would my soul be restored if I tried to unwind in a foreign place

where I don’t speak the language or understand the culture?  Not likely.

So God, in God’s infinite wisdom, would understandably invite me to stop, to rest, to lie down

in a peaceful place,

a comfortable place,

a place of obvious restoration–

God would invite me to lie down in green pastures….

 

But wait–that’s not actually what the psalm says–

God doesn’t invite me to lie down in green pastures, as it turns out….

The psalm says that God makes me lie down in green pastures….

Hmm….

Why would I resist resting in a peaceful, comfortable, restorative place?

Why would I have to be made to lie down in green pastures??

 

Today, at the risk of beating a dead horse(!), I find myself considering the idea

of being made to lie down,

of being forced to rest,

of having no choice but to accept a period of inactivity and stillness….

…all of which seem to imply some sort of resistance,

some degree of reluctance,

some level of unwillingness on the part of, well, me….

Where might that resistance to “lie down” come from?

Does it come from me not wanting to stop doing what I’m doing?

Does it come because I’m afraid I won’t know who I am or what my purpose is

if I stop doing what I’m doing?

Where might that reluctance to rest come from?

Does it come from me being comfortable where I am?

Does it come because the place where I’m being made to “lie down”

Seems somehow uncomfortable?

Where might that unwillingness to be still come from?

Does it come from a feeling that it’s not okay to not be active?

Does it come from an impression that it’s a sign of laziness and/or selfishness,

or something similarly unacceptable,

to not be busy, or productive, or useful, all the time?

 

Why would I resist resting in a peaceful, comfortable, restorative place?

Why would I have to be made to lie down in green pastures??

 

Maybe, from my perspective, the place where God wants me to “lie down,” to be still,

doesn’t look like green pastures at all, but more like an empty, parched desert–

lonely…uncomfortable…too quiet…devoid of water and life…

Or maybe, from where I stand, my assigned place of inactivity appears more like a shopping mall–

noisy…crowded…overflowing with too much stimulation…

Or maybe, the place that God knows will be “green pastures” for me

feels for all the world like a foreign land–

a place totally unknown, with practices I’m not familiar with

and a language I don’t understand….

Perhaps it feels like God is forcing stillness and inactivity on me, that God is making me lie down,

in a place that does not seem peaceful,

that does not feel comfortable,

that does not fit any notion I’ve ever had or could even ever imagine

as being the least bit restorative to my burdened soul….

 

Yet here I am, being made to lie down in green pastures,

so that my soul might be restored….

 

“Clearly, God, You don’t know what You are doing, if You think this

[desert/shopping mall/foreign land…health crisis/job loss/loved one’s death…

whatever it is that forces us, reluctantly, into a period of inactivity and stillness…]

–is a ‘green pasture’!”


…or could it be that we don’t know what God is doing??…

and that “this” is, in fact, in spite of what it may look and feel like to us,

a place of green pastures,

meant for the restoration of our souls??….

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6 thoughts on “Psalm 23 – Where are the green pastures??

  1. Dee Dee Heffner

    Thank you for this insightful reflection. It speaks to me in a special and much-needed way this morning.

  2. Katherine Singer

    And what if you are in the green pastures because they are safe and your sadness keeps you there?

    • Ah, Shoes…… I wish I could come to your green pastures and give you a hug……. Your question will make a good topic for a future reflection….. I pray that whatever the reason God has made you to be still in the green pastures, that God will find a way for your soul to be restored, your sadness to be acknowledged, held, and honored, and that you might find the strength you need, when you need it, to take one step forward, when the time is Right……… Love you, Kate.

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