Renewal

PSALM 23:1-3 (from THE MESSAGE) 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.

I’m not being an overdramatic artsy guy when I say July 2009 was the worst month of my life. I couldn’t feel anything when I held my kids. I sat in the shower wailing, shouting at God most mornings. Vivid fantasies about ending my life flashed across my mind. I felt abandoned, hopeless. I was sick and scared.

I’ve never known darkness like that before, but because of it I got to experience comfort like none I’d known either. I wondered where God was; I didn’t recognize him when he showed up as friends, family and church. They were God’s comfort, his quiet pools and lush meadows – proof that the Shepherd never left me.

I like The Message translation of Psalm 23 but it’s missing an important word from the well-worn version I was made to memorize in Vacation Bible School.

PSALM 23:2 He makes me lie down…

Sometimes, on good days, I can almost hear God lisping to me the way a parent speaks to a small child: “It’s time to take a widdle nappy nap, Buddy. Here ya go. Here’s your woobie. Now lie down like a good boy and when you wake up we’ll have a snacky snack.”

But sometimes, on bad days, on very bad days, it seems like the Shepherd takes that big stick of his and – WACK! – “LIE DOWN! YOU NEED A NAP!” And then he pours me a glass of Benadryl. And I’m out.

He makes me lie down. For my own good.

I don’t feel cranky. I don’t feel like I need the rest. I feel stronger than those wusses who take time off. Don’t you? Then – WACK! – Cancer, marriage problems, a rebellious child, debt, unemployment, insomnia, doubt, stomach pain, anxiety, loneliness, impatience.

Life rises up against me and I’m forced to lie down. For a day. A week. The entire month of July.

I’m forced to rest my head on green pastures and drink from still waters. And in time I’m renewed, healed, whole again.

Maybe God wouldn’t have to raise his voice if I took a nap every week like he’s told me to. Maybe we could skip the Benadryl and the stick and the – WACK!

Maybe, if I let God renew my strength one day a week, whether I feel like I need it or not, I’ll never feel like I need it.

PSALM 73:25 (from THE MESSAGE) You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God—oh, how refreshing it is!

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