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. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Our family recently loaded up the mini van and headed on a road trip to another province for a conference. We had been looking forward to it for quite some time and even though there was a series of unfortunate events, it didn’t really dampen our enthusiasm for long. We needed this family time. With two boys rocketing toward adulthood, we want to make the most of every opportunity to have fun together and make memories.
Speaking of memories, mine is very short. I had forgotten the very long, very frustrating road trip from last year, the one in which we packed up the van and drove toward a new life. We drove for over 50 hours actually, and no more than eight hours per day, and at least seven and a half of those hours each day were filled with complaints. “I’m too hot!” “I’m too cold” “so-and-so is too close” “so-and-so didn’t brush their teeth!” “I’m hungry!” “I need the bathroom!” And the ever popular, “How much longer do we have to stay in this van??!!”
That’s where my memory had betrayed me. I didn’t really remember how bad it was until we were half an hour into our trip and the complaints began. I tried to ignore it, I tried to answer it softly, I contemplated ear plugs, and I turned the music up. Still they carried on.
With all the road blocks that appeared in the days leading up to the trip and all of the angst coming from the inside of the vehicle, I just felt that God was wanting to show me something this week. Now there is an account in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is crying out to God because all of the prophets have been killed and he’s left and being hunted. The Lord tells him to go stand on the mountains because he is about to pass by Elijah. While Elijah stood there, there was a wind strong enough to tear the mountains apart and shatter rocks, and earthquake, and then fire. The Lord was not in any of those powerful things. After the fire was a gentle whisper, and that was God speaking to him.
I have been guilty, as I was on this trip, of looking for the loud, big, in your face type of deal, not realizing that the very thing God wants you to hear, the very thing that will speak loudest to your spirit, is very small and gentle.
While the kids wailed on, and the day grew longer, and we were all getting tired of this 15 hour trip, my eyes were drawn to color in the valley below the highway. It was stunning! It was so green, so many different shades of green. And the mountains rising majestically behind it, a sharp contrast to the valley below. It really can’t be described, it has to be seen. I felt in my spirit that God was showing me, in the splendor of his creation, what true rest and peace look like.
You see, we often spend our whole lives striving to live on the mountain peaks of success or triumph, but the fact is, there is not much growing up there! There aren’t many trees on the high elevations. It’s beautiful to look at from a distance and if you were up there you would have a beautiful view. I’ll bet if you were standing up there though, at a high elevation, you’d be surrounded by rocks. I was struck by how lush the valley was though, how much was in bloom and growing. Even growing up the mountains to a certain point the vegetation was beautiful.
While we’re in the valley we don’t get to fully appreciate all the growth that’s taking place; and like the not so fragrant aroma of manure spread on the fields that we all “enjoyed” while in our van, it served as a reminder of how even the challenges we face in the valleys God uses to produce beautiful fruit in our lives. It’s more important who we are becoming than the height on which we stand. Sometimes it feels we’re spending more time in the valley or ascending the mountain than standing on the peak, and we probably are. Have you seen how small those peaks are in comparison to everything else? But trust that from the heavenly view your life is producing a beautiful portrait, one that you’ll hang on your mansion wall someday and be in awe of!
He showed me that when he makes us lie in green pastures, refreshing our souls, it’s a beautiful place to be!