Fighting a migraine for several days and I was left exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I commented to my husband that it’s at these times that my mind is not kind to me. Thoughts of failure, guilt, discouragement seem to assail me and I have little energy to fight them away. I am vulnerable, tears come readily. Feeling like myself again seems elusive.
But then I remembered the words from the oh so well known Psalm 23 – “He restores my soul.”
“He restores my soul.” The literal translation is that God causes my life to return. To restore is to replenish, to return to its original state. Restoring my soul means that God gives the enjoyment of life back to me. My troubled, exhausted and wearied spirit is refreshed and filled with new joy. My mind is restored to its equilibrium. My soul can be and is restored by God.
How? The key lies in the first part of the verse – “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters…”
Ah soul – find rest and peace with God. He’s in control and finds us the still waters, the green pastures.
“The Pause that refreshes“. A marketing slogan for Coca-Cola in the 1920’s with wisdom for us in 2015. In the busyness of our days we should apply the same. Not so much the reaching for the carbonated soft drink but the pausing – the taking time, taking moments to pause, to let our soul breathe.
Maybe, just maybe it’s as simple as pausing and listening to the birds when collecting the mail. Maybe in the rush of the morning it’s taking your littlest for a coffee for you and a gingerbread man for him before his preschool starts. Or it’s actually drinking the cup of tea that you brewed instead of allowing it to go cold as you send that important email or put on the next load of washing right then and there. Perhaps it’s allowing yourself a few moments to just sit in the sun.
Learning to pause allows space to be, to breathe. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath” writes about a South American Tribe that would go on a march that would last days, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down and rest for a couple of days. Their explanation – “they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”
Has you life been marching for too long without a rest? A pause? An opportunity for refreshment? The taking of time so perhaps a soul can catch up?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
“Life is loud. You need to search out the quiet.” (Holly Gerth)
Life is noisy! It’s busy and it’s fast. There’s always something to be done, people to see, places to go. But in the rush of 21st Century living we need to learn to search out the quiet. We need to give our souls the opportunity to breathe. To find the peace, to find the rest and embrace it.
It is in the quiet places that we can hear the tenderest of whispers from God. It is in the quiet that we learn that life is more about being than doing. In the stillness we discover afresh that God’s love for us is for who we are not what we do. It is in the quiet that our soul finds rest. And it is God’s intention that in our daily lives we would find it.
It says in Psalm 23 that “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Or as the Message Bible puts it “You let me catch my breath.” God wants us to pause, to rest. To relax into His protection and comfort.
In the quiet our soul is restored.
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7)
Sitting here now at my desk I can hear a plane flying overhead, the hum of the dishwasher. If I incline my ear though I can hear the birds outside, the rustling of the wind through the trees and the wind itself. And as I continue to pause, to embrace the quiet I become aware of the Presence of the Lord around me. And I know “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
It is in the quiet that our soul finds its equilibrium again – it finds its rest in God.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (Psalm 62:5)
“Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” St Augustine
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:1)
Like a wanderer – rootless, aimless, a rover – so too our soul often is. We roam, wander away from God through hurt, discontentment, through apathy, through boredom even. We sometimes let out soul roam wherever it pleases – to negative thoughts, to self pity and self centredness. We let our hearts be restless. We let it wander away from God. But like a homing beacon, we hear the call of God. Like a whisper over the seas calling 0ur hearts home again.
Our intent and focus may change, may shift away from God, but God’s love and intent for us never changes. His love for us never fails (Psalm 136). He’s the Father who watches and waits for His son to return home, ready to run the moment He catches a glimpse of him and welcome him home. Nothing we ever do can separate us from the love of God. No lonesome road that we travel down will ever stop us being found, being loved by Him.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)
It was breathtakingly quiet. Walking along the water’s edge I could hear the water lapping at the shore. I could even hear the sound of the heron’s feet sliding into the water as it stalked past. The sun was warm on my back, the shells making a delicious crunch beneath my feet. I breathed in and out as if to capture in my spirit this serenity that surrounded me. And in that moment I felt my soul sigh as it quietened itself. In that moment, when the busyness of normal life was an hour’s drive away, my soul found rest.
As I walked I let God whisper into my heart. And I whispered back – hopes, dreams, love for Him and worship. I let the peace of His presence envelop me and provide me sustenance. Treasured moments with God.
Having returned from holiday I could be lulled into the false belief that another such precious encounter with God would have to wait for another holiday, another deserted beach when “time” was more available and the call of work and chores can’t be heard. But in the busyness of life these moments are still available to me. They just take a different form. They’re moments when I’m curled up in my chair in my bedroom, a hot cup of tea in my hand and the morning sun resting on me as I read the Bible. They’re moments when I sit at a table in a warm café sipping a flat white and journaling. They’re moments too when as I catch up with friends or linger in a home store and I find God whispering to me – dropping into my heart plans and steps and awakening dreams. They’re moments too when I’m driving to work with the worship music pumped up loud, or am just sitting quietly waiting for the school bell to ring.
Moments – encounters with God – refreshment for the soul – rest for the weary are everywhere. Just pause, breathe and look.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)
“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7)
I see her every day as I wait for my boys at school. She lives just up the road from where I wait. And each day I see her stroll to meet her kids. It’s the stroll that intrigues me. It’s languid, easy and relaxed. But it’s still a stroll with purpose to collect her children from school. I sit in my car slightly envious of her unrushed walk. I don’t know her back story or how her day has gone, but she consistently appears to be one unrushed, unharried mum. I see others too, quite the opposite juggling an uncooperative toddler or powering up the hill at double speed as the bell has already sounded.
There’s something to be said for being unrushed. Still purposeful, but unrushed nonetheless. A life of serenity really. Later that night having had a busy early evening on the home front, I headed off to Church for a speaking engagement. I was feeling somewhat rushed, and was using the drive to transition from the mum overseeing homework and putting the boys to bed to speaker / teacher. Unconsciously though, I found myself singing “Be still and know that I am God”. That’s when I realised my soul (my mind, will and emotions) was definitely rushed and somewhat stressed, but my spirit was not. My spirit was at peace and my spirit was working at calming my soul down.
I have a choice, I can let me soul rule or I can let my spirit rule. Our spirit is in constant communion with God. It is at peace. It is our spirit that radiates the light of God. As Kris Vallotton once wrote “you will always reproduce the environment around you that you cultivate within you.” If I want that unrushed, serene walk, I need to ensure that that I am cultivating peace internally.
So watch out for me at the School gate – I’m the chilled out one…well the trying to be one anyway.