Welcome to my Beloved Shepherd Blog, a personal contemplation of Psalm 23 in the Bible. Today we're looking at the first line of verse two:
"He makes me lie down in green pastures."
Especially when I look at all I have. I have a pretty nice house with a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains right out my back door and a big, jetted bathtub and an open floor plan, like I've always wanted. I have an awesome husband who loves me like there's no tomorrow. For Mother's Day last week, he brought me about eight things - four of them were chocolate. I have an Airbnb business I enjoy completely. And lots of other things, including my three cats and- Okay, Connie - that's enough girl.
The point is, I really have all that I need to be thoroughly happy all the time. Sometimes, things aren't ideal. But I should still be mostly happy. And, honestly, how can I ever be UNhappy?
And yet I am! Sometimes, I am desperately unhappy. I feel miserable, can't think straight and all I want to do is play cell phone games (like 2048) while I'm eating something fantastic, like Haagen Dazs Irish Cream Brownie ice cream.
Okay, I completely laid myself bare here. How about you? Do you ever feel like you should be happier than you are?
I'll try to talk myself out of my feelings. "Look around, girl! Lots people would be SO happy to have your house, your husband or your cats. Your life is rich and full and you've been to New Zealand. Snap out of it!"
Then there's the self-flagellation. I get mad at myself for not having more gratitude, trust or faith. The Inner Critic jumps for joy and starts in on me. Words like "selfish," "failure" and "incompetent" get thrown at me.
In the end, I am MORE unhappy. Plus, guilty and ashamed.
In fact, right now she's pretty darn miserable, moping around, complaining, spending way too much time on Netflix.
Psalm 23 actually addresses this very issue in verse two, in just one line.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures."
First off, this verse doesn't mean that the Shepherd is forcing the sheep to "Sit down right here and don't move a muscle until I tell you to!" Not At All.
This line should sound more like this:
He is the reason I can lie down in green pastures
He makes it possible for me to lie down in green pastures.
That makes more sense right away, doesn't it?
Phillip Keller, a sheep farmer, wrote several books that explain what the Bible means when it's talking about sheep and the shepherd. I highly recommend his books. In fact, he wrote a beautiful book all about Psalm 23.
He says you can't force a sheep to lie down at all. They will only lie down if they are:
· first, free of fear
· second, have a full tummy
· third, are at peace with the flock
· fourth, are free from the many gnats, fleas and parasites that make their lives miserable.
Then and only then can our poor Tilly lie down and rest! Until then, she's anxious, hungry, tormented or terrified. In other words, unhappy. And she can't rest until she's happy.
He is the reason I can lie down in green pastures.
Think of your house filled with all of the things you love, your antique furniture, big TV, your collection of dolls, clocks, baseball cards, books, your fancy kitchen stuff, the hardwood floors, your monster barbecue - all of that plus your relationships, your job, your prize roses, season tickets to whatever - these are your green pastures.
Somehow, we all think that if we could just have what is in other people's pastures, then we would be happy. In fact, we even have a saying that reflects that, "Greener pastures!" meaning somewhere else is going to make you happier than where you are now.
I have certainly believed that! And worked hard to get to those greener pastures. I was pretty unhappy with the pastures I had. But my pastures, then and now, are green enough. Even though I don't know your situation, I'm going to take a guess and say your pastures are green enough too.
I am unhappy because am anxious. I feel tense and even threatened. I don't know what to do, who to call or how to find safety. I am afraid.
I am unhappy because I'm hungry! I'm hungry for love or value or hope. I'm hungry to have my unmet needs cared for. I'm hungry for something I can't even define.
I am unhappy because there is animosity between me and another. I'm mad at my husband, feel I've been insulted by a friend, left out of a fun event, can't get my kids to listen to me.
I am unhappy because there are a million irritating, frustrating things in my life, big and small, that I can't control and they are driving me nuts.
All of that is the Shepherd's job to take care of! This isn't my opinion. It's what this psalm says! It's actually a little shocking to me. I might make a flow chart about it later.
Tilly can't deal with any of these things. She doesn't know how. And whatever she might try will cause worse problems. Doesn't that sound just like us? But the Good Shepherd knows exactly what unhappy Tilly needs. He has the resources, knowledge and skill to take care of her. And, best of all - because he is the Good Shepherd - he wants to do that. He loves to do that. It is his joy to make Tilly estatically happy again!
It is his joy to make me happy!
It is his joy to make you happy.
When I am happy, I can finally rest in my green pastures.
So... I hope you're wondering, how this actually works, in the real world, where you are feeling unhappy.
Here's how it works for me.
The Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, is with me, but I have to own my feelings. I'm pretty good at deflecting them (blaming) or distracting (2048 and Haagen Dazs). But I have to stop all that and face them straight on. It's pretty painful. It can take me a long time to face my feelings honestly.
I lean in to those feelings so I can see and understand them. I ask my beloved Shepherd to help me comprehend what I'm looking at. Wow, the revelations he's given me! I have often seen the depth of a terrible wound from long, long ago that is still on fire and burning in me. Or identity issues that have kept me trapped. Or lies that I believed were the truth. And many other things.
Jesus knows what I need next. I ask him, litteraly, what he want me to do. I might need to forgive someone so I can let go of the pain. Or he gives me a powerful dose of his truth that sets me free of the lies. And other times, he sends supernatural healing into my soul. Sometimes, he defeats the forces of darkness in me. Always, he fills me with his great love for me. It is so glorious and powerful! It is highest, fullest, moment of my life, overflowing with His brilliance and goodness.
Afterward, I feel confident and content, safe and loved. I am at peace with myself and the world. I have new hope and fresh joy. Morning has broken and I'm jumping for joy!
Me and Tilly, we are happy sheep! We've hit the joy jackpot and hit it big! We are dancing around our respective pastures, filled with God's light.
Now, I can lay down in green pastures. Now, I can rest.
You can have this, too. Our beloved Shepherd loves to make his sheep happy! He's eager to make you happy. Won't you let him?