He makes me lies down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul (Psalm 23:2-3)
Ever had to make a U-turn?
It happens all the time. Maybe a median prevented you from turning left directly into the driveway or parking lot of your destination. Maybe you were looking for someplace you’d never been before and while you were focused on your directions you missed the street you needed. No big deal. A U-turn may be inconvenient, but it’s not uncommon - unless you’re at 34,000 feet.
In October of 2009 Northwest Airlines flight 188 was making a routine flight from San Diego to the Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Airport. Somehow the pilots of the aircraft missed the airport by about 150 miles. With the help of air traffic controllers NWA 188 executed a U-turn and made it back to Minneapolis, landing safely. But unlike the ordinary u-turns that you and I make all the time, this was a very big deal. The aircraft was greeted at the gate by the police and the FBI. Investigations were launched. Pilots were suspended. The question, of course, is “what happened?”
One theory – which as far as I know has yet to be confirmed – is that the pilots missed the airport because they had been napping during the flight. The pilots have denied this, claiming rather that they were involved in a “heated discussion” over certain airline policies. Again, I’m not sure what conclusions were reached in this matter, but this much is clear: experts were willing to connect pilot fatigue with missing the airport by 150 miles.
In our weariness we can miss important things. And sometimes what we miss cannot be reclaimed by a simple U-turn. A moment is lost, an opportunity missed. We missed it. And we missed it because we were tired.
In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan writes
One measure for whether or not you’re rested enough – besides falling asleep in board meetings – is to ask yourself this: How much do I care about the things I care about? When we lose concern for people . . . for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness; when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quiet down) or weep when our spouses weep (and instead wish they didn’t get so emotional); when we hear of trouble among our neighbors and our first thought is that we hope it isn’t going to involve us – when we stop caring about the things we care about - that’s a signal we’re too busy (The Rest of God, p. 48).
Psalm 23 tells us that a life lived under the shepherding care of God is a life lived at rest. God our shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. God restores our soul. Beautiful imagery – but what does rest look like? We’re probably not talking about laziness, stretching out on the sofa with a bag of Oreos (although there’s certainly a time for both stretching out and for Oreos). The rest to which God calls us, the rest which God offers us goes to the deep places of our life. The soul is restored.
As you read this, the day may still be young. How are you doing? Are you rested? It’s an important question because God never intended that we live our days worn out. Relentless weariness is costly. It can make pilots miss airports – and it makes us miss other things that matter.
Important things are happening all around you today: a comment from a co-worker that opens a window to their life, a question from your child, a sigh from your spouse in an unguarded moment. When we’re tired, we cannot engage these things. We miss what matters. But the good news is this: our shepherd God wills that we live at rest. God invites us to that kind of life and even makes it possible. This week we’ll spend some time finding the rest to which we’ve been called.
Too many times, O God, we have missed what matters in life. Weariness has bred inattention and inattention has meant neglect. We neglect the people close to us, and we neglect our life with you. The soul grows dull to the nudging of your Spirit. Grant us rest, that our souls might be restored and our hearts might be moved by the things which move your heart, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.