The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul… – (Psalm 23)
Over the past several weeks, these words have become alive in me. They’ve been like food and drink as I’ve sat with them and allowed them to soak into my being. God is teaching me to engage His Word in a different way than I have been accustomed to doing.
I am an extremely mind-oriented person. I am driven to seek understanding and to figure things out. I want to know exactly what I’m supposed to do and what God and others expect of me.
For me, this approach to life and relationships is fear based and fear driven. The underlying assumption is that if I can figure things out, know what I’m supposed to do, and do it (perfectly, of course!), I will be safe. I won’t get hurt. And IT ALL DEPENDS ON ME!!! UGH!!! That’s a lot of pressure! Don’t you think?
So, I’ve been practicing a different approach. I’m not very good at it. That’s why I need practice! It’s not perfectly clear to me what I’m supposed to do, and I know that even as I practice, I’m stumbling and bumbling along. But, it’s okay. That’s how we learn.
Trying A Different Approach
I’ve been inviting my mind to take a back seat. My mind has always been in the driver’s seat. Fear placed it there. Fear keeps it there. Though not intentionally, my mind can even become a defense against God.
God longs to heal and to drive out fear with perfect love, but often my self-protective strategies get in the way. So, I very gently and simply invite my mind to take a back seat.
It’s okay that I don’t have it all figured out. It’s okay not to know what I’m supposed to do. My mind protests that it doesn’t feel okay. Not at all! Yet, I gently extend the invitation to my mind to rest.
For many years, I have engaged Scripture for the primary purpose of figuring out this question: “What, exactly, does God want me to do?” My reasoning was that if I could figure out what God wants me to do and if I could somehow do it good enough, then God would do certain things for me.
Things like this: love me, accept me, keep me safe, keep bad things from happening to me, etc.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that whenever I don’t feel loved or accepted by God, or when “bad” things inevitably happen, I automatically assume it is all my fault. I didn’t do whatever it was I was supposed to do, good enough.
This kind of thinking is like trying to put God in a box. Guess what? He doesn’t fit! Only my false ideas of God fit in that box. God will not allow Himself to be put into such a box. God does not reward my efforts to be “good enough”. If He were to do so, He would only be reinforcing my false-god image. He gently calls me to Himself.
I’m learning now to engage Scripture for the primary purpose of experiencing God. This is very different from trying to figure out what God wants me to do!
My mind still tries to run down that path. It is a mental habit. Instead of getting frustrated, I gently bring my mind back.
This is a very gentle process. Being harsh is never helpful. Instead I choose to be gentle and inviting.
So, what might that look like?
Try This Approach For Yourself
If you would be willing, I would like to invite you to try an exercise with me based on the first couple verses of Psalm 23. Are you ready?
The Lord is my Shepherd…
You might whisper these words softly to yourself. Sit with them. Let them sink in. Allow your mind to marinate in the words. When you catch your mind wandering, gently whisper the words again.
What does it feel like to have the Lord shepherd you?
Notice how it makes you feel. Do you feel safe? Does it feel good to know that the Lord is watching over you? Can you feel that you are not alone? Is there a picture that comes to your mind? I picture a great big staff that a shepherd carries in his hands. It makes me feel safe and protected.
After a few minutes of simply sitting quietly with your Shepherd, whisper these words:
I have everything I need.
Allow your mind to rest in these words now.
- What do you need right now?
- What do you need in this minute?
- Where are you feeling vulnerable?
- Are you striving to meet your own needs?
- Can you feel that your Shepherd longs to take care of you?
- Can you relax your grip on trying to take care of yourself?
Ask the Shepherd to show you that He cares for you. You are important to Him. He is committed to you.
He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Can you picture those luscious, beautiful green pastures? Can you see the sheep grazing and then lying down to rest? Your Shepherd feeds you and gives you rest. You don’t have to be afraid. You can feed on what the Shepherd gives you and then rest.
When I am fearful, I find myself afraid to rest. I am driven to keep consuming because I’m afraid the green pastures will be gone tomorrow.
Can you trust the Shepherd with tomorrow? Can you relax and enjoy what He is giving you today? Like sheep, we need to feed on what the Shepherd gives and then we need to rest.
In fact, that is exactly what we are doing right now. Can you feel the rhythm? We are taking in a few words at a time and then resting.
He leads me beside quiet waters…
Can you hear the quiet? Have you ever listened to the sound of silence? Are things becoming just a bit clearer?
Churning waters are muddy. In a still pool, you can look way down into the depths. With the Shepherd beside you, look into the depths. What do you see? Do you see the Shepherd’s reflection? Maybe your own?
He restores my soul…
What needs healing in you? Have you been keeping yourself busy so as to avoid the pain? Did you know that the Shepherd wants to heal your soul?
He does this as you sit with Him quietly. Doesn’t that make sense? When you break a part of your physical body, what is the first thing you do? You immobilize it. You become still.
Becoming still with God allows the soul to heal. It also allows you to feel the pain. I think that’s why we avoid it! We need to stay in that place so the healing can come.
You don’t have to run away. You don’t have to fix it. Just be with Him.
Okay, I’m going to end here. Feel free to keep going if you would like! I want to leave you with one idea…
In the weeks ahead ponder this rhythm of feeding on the Word and then resting in it.
I’d love to hear your comments on what this is like for you.
Does it help you to experience God through His Word? What challenges do you encounter?