What do you see when you read this passage? What comes to mind? More specifically, these verses: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
I had a mentor that started an amazing ministry in Mexico many years ago. I got the chance to visit him and that ministry during my 2nd or 3rd year of med school (I can’t remember the exact year). I spent about a week there. It was a great trip. Great for a number of reasons. Beyond the make-shift clinics and serving orphaned children...the best part was just being there, taking it all in, seeing how big the world actually was and how selfish I had become in not playing a part in making the world better. This was during a difficult time in my life when I was trying to figure out who I was and what my purpose was in life. I eventually got to meet my soon-to-be mentors wife and I remember a story she shared with us. She told us a story of their trip to Israel. What she shared has stuck with me and has continued to encourage me to this day. During prayer this week I was reminded of what she said.
Our guide, Bible teacher Ray Vander Laan, took us to a hill where we watched sheep graze under the careful eye of their shepherd. I asked why the shepherd was tending his sheep on a hillside without grass.
Everywhere I turned, it seemed brown and rocky. “Look under the rocks,” he encouraged me. “The dew from the morning gets caught under them, and there are small grass clumps that grow. See how the shepherd is walking among his sheep? They know his voice, and he’s pointing out to them where the grass is found.”
I located the thickest tuft of grass, and it was still smaller than a human fist. Do you know how long it takes to bite, chew, and swallow a small tuft of grass? From our observation, about the time it takes to go three or four steps. Then the sheep has to listen for where he can find the next bite.
I started to think about Psalm 23, and our guide pulled out his Bible. As we talked about the imagery for this passage, we agreed our idea of being led to green pastures conjured up images of waist-high grass, careening in a gentle wind, as far as the eye could see. But my picture of a field of grass represented my total independence. I could eat however much I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. I could tell God thanks beforehand, but all other factors were in my control.
David, however, was on hillsides like this rocky one when he penned those words. His idea of God’s leading us to a green pasture places us in a posture of dependence, looking more like what I was watching that afternoon. God’s way puts me in a position where he might provide only what will sustain me for the next three or four steps. Then, dependent on him for more, I stay on the path within earshot and listen for his leading so I’ll find what I need. Listen. Bite. Step. Repeat.
I am learning this week that if I knew 8-9 months ago what I know now I probably wouldn’t have led my family to HK. This just shows how limited I am, in knowledge and wisdom and so on. By His grace, God continues to show me He is in control. His plans are always best. And, ultimately, I just need to walk in faith...so I can lead my family in faith.