He Makes Me Lay Down
This week’s post is by Brandon Adent, a deacon at Redeemer Church. He likes music, words, and words about music.
Easter morning I showed up for rehearsal feeling less than stellar, and left feeling even less so.
Exhausted, I lay on the couch, and hardly got up for a week.
I don’t get sick easily; it’d been probably seven years since I’d had the flu, and probably three since I’d had to take multiple days off from work. Maybe both of those numbers are normal, maybe they’re high, maybe they’re low. No matter, when Tuesday showed up, they both reset to zero, and the timing felt absolutely the worst.
Really, anytime is the worst, but this was bad. There wasn’t really anything of utmost importance I would miss, nothing that couldn’t be rescheduled, anyway.
But after several months of stalemate, I was at long last beginning to see progress in a couple of different areas, finally starting to feel productive, to see progress, to get back into a rhythm. I was exhausted from spinning my wheels in the sand, but at least I was moving again.
Yeah, no more. For the next week, I did nothing but toss and turn, whimper and puke. In all honestly, I didn’t probably have it that bad. But it felt bad. I felt bad.
And as I sat there wanting nothing but the Second Coming of Christ, I couldn’t help but ask God what I had done to deserve this.
Lay Down, Little Sheepy
Some time ago, someone pointed out to me the particular phrasing of the first couple verses of the well known Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul
He makes me lie down.
At least for my soul, that sounds a lot like this:
Okay, little sheepy, this is a good spot. Take a minute and lay down. No… stop here, don’t keep going. Stop. Okay, c’mon bud, get down. No, all the way… all the way; no, I said DOWN, not up.
LITTLE BUDDY: LAY. DOWN.
*sickness or injury ensue*
At first glance, this sort of thing seems a bit vindictive or something, but it's actually the opposite.
While Psalm 23 may or may not be a direct reference to the biblical concept of Sabbath rest, I can’t help but see the parallels.
We need rest; it’s hardwired into creation; even before the Fall, there was rest. In fact, God Himself rested and set that day apart (Gen 2.1-3), not because He needed it, but because He knew we needed it.
Our bodies need to physically recover from the things that we do, but rest is more than sleep or lying around. It’s also allowing oneself the time to just “be”, to reflect on God’s greatness and be astounded that He somehow is mindful of us (Psalm 8).
Rest reminds us who we are, that we can’t do it all. It gives us a chance to unwind and charge up for the week or the day or the hour ahead, mindful of God’s power and our weakness apart from Him.
As Christians, we can take a break from our labor in the full knowledge that Jesus has worked tirelessly and rested perfectly, died and risen so that we can rest in His record and not our own.
Regardless of any benefit, we don’t like rest. At least I don’t. When I go hiking, I am all about how much ground we cover, how many miles we need to make in a day, how far to the next camp. Don’t stop for water or take pictures in the middle of a hill, keep up the momentum. Actually, my tendency is to speed up while ascending.
I’ll rest when I’m dead, thank you very much. Right now, I’ve got somewhere to be.
I mean, I like the idea of taking a second to look around. But it takes much more effort than it should to just pick my head up for a quick breather; I really like the idea that I don’t need it.
That somehow God made me wrong, that I know what I’m capable of more than He does. I’d rather spend the night nauseous than admit I can’t do it, and it’s happened often enough.
Just Lay Down
There’s a lot of different ways to rest, or "sabbath", and the best way to rest varies so much from person-to-person.
The Sabbath was a day of rest, built into the week. God Himself “sabbathed” after He populated the earth, and written into the Ten Commandments was a weekly “rest day”, which was to be spent differently than the other days of the week, to spend time with God and His people, do good and rest from the labors of the week. Keeping the Sabbath was a big deal, and with the Jewish people today, it still is.
There’s a million ways to take a Sabbath. Take a nap, take a walk, hang out with friends, take your family to the park, play an instrument, work on a project, read a book (or three...), write a letter to your grandmother, and so on and so forth. Just take time to reflect on what God has done for you in Christ and enjoy all the good gifts He’s given you. Take some time to just “be”.
Maybe it’s just me. But I’ve found that when I am not obedient in regular rest, I get made to lay down.
Thankfully, whether we’re smart enough to see it or not, wherever we’re laid down is green pasture where, whether we want Him to or not, He restores our soul.