He Maketh Me to Lie Down
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
The soothing words of the 23rd Psalm come to my mind often, especially in times of difficulty. As I reflected on these timeless words this week, the word “maketh” jumped out at me. The shepherd has to make his sheep lie down. They won’t do this on their own. As much as they need green pastures and still waters, they depend on the shepherd to make them stop and rest.
There is an old saying that God has to put us on our back before we look up. Yes, we are stubborn and we get so busy with the demands of life that we have to be made to stop and rest and find nourishment for our souls.
I am not suggesting that God created this COVID crisis to teach us a lesson. But it is true that the greatest lessons of life are learned when we are forced to stop, slow down, and lie down in the green pastures.
I’m reading an excellent book by one of my favorite authors and esteemed Presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, titled: Leadership in Turbulent Times. The book is focused on four great American Presidents who exhibited strong and exceptional leadership in turbulent times: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.
She highlights the common traits of leadership that they all shared and traces the development of these characteristics in their lives. All four of these great leaders went through a traumatic time of personal crisis that prepared them for the later national crises they would each face.
Abraham Lincoln went through a time of depression so severe that his friends had to hide knives and weapons from him because they were afraid he would hurt himself. Theodore Roosevelt experienced the tragic death of his wife after the birth of their first child, Alice, and his mother died the same day in the same house. He spiraled into a profound grief. Franklin Roosevelt was crippled with Polio in the prime of his life and his family and friends felt that his public life was over. He worked for years to overcome his personal depression and strengthen his diseased body. Lyndon Johnson, the hyperactive and powerful majority leader of the Senate, suffered a near-fatal heart attack that resulted in months of convalescence and a personal and spiritual transformation.
You can say that that the greatest characteristics of leadership that guided our nation through some of its most perilous times were formed when these future Presidents were made to “lie down.”
There is no question that the COVID crisis has forced all of us to pause, to “lie down,” and reflect. I know we are all anxious for life to get back to normal. We want to come back to church, to sing, to fellowship, to worship together. But the good shepherd is making us “to lie down in the green pastures.”
I pray we will use this time to listen, to look up, to be renewed in mind and spirit. I went back almost two decades to another time we were all forced to stop as a nation. The week after 9/11, I wrote these words:
Have you noticed how the world has changed since September 11? The haze has lifted and we see the world in a different light. Now we see clearly the important things of life—the value of relationships, the priority of family, the significance of devoting our time and energy to lasting endeavors.
I listen as the birds call out to one another. Most of the time, I just hear birds. Today, however, I listen closely and realize that each bird has a distinctive sound. Every human is unique, individual and distinctive—like the birds.
I listen and watch the birds as they sing their individual songs. Yet, they have found a way to live together in peace. They do not fight and destroy each other. There is room in God’s forest for all of the birds. Is there not enough room in God’s world for all of us? Listen to the birds and learn from them.