The Problem With Leading Ourselves to Still Waters
The early months of 2017 had a similar pattern. Our calendar was filled to the brim. As we came to the end of that season, I found the lack of rest left me weary, irritable, easily angered and peevish. It wasn’t pretty.
Cue the full-on freak-out after realizing our summer would repeat the pattern. I feared that with my full calendar, I was setting myself up for an inevitable disaster that would end with a burned-out Abby. I longed to rest and be refreshed with quiet weekends and calm weeks, and I was looking for ways to bail on our commitments to reach that end.
In an attempt to orient myself from fear of my full schedule and to trust in the Lord, I revived my habit of reciting Psalm 23 every day. One day in the throes of feeling overwhelmed and wondering when I’d rest, this verse cut my heart: “He leads me beside still waters.”
Still waters are what I wanted out of this summer, not a jam-packed schedule. I realized my fear over my schedule was grounded in the lie that I needed to lead myself to still waters, create still waters and hold on to still waters once I find them.
Trying to lead myself to still waters
If I could have a certain number of free weekends to rest, I reasoned, I wouldn’t enter the same cycle I did earlier this year. Instagram photos, self-help books and click-baity articles tell me that if I had the right routine and enough free weekends, I could find calm, quiet and refreshment. When I looked over my schedule and realized the times to rest were few, I didn’t see how I could avoid winding up a burned-out mess.
My situation fails to account for the truth that my good Shepherd promises to lead me to still waters. The ESV Study Bible explains that still waters denote rest and nourishment. Oftentimes, I feel compelled to grasp and strive for opportunities to rest and be nourished. I buy the lie that if I can get X (whether that’s “me time,” a certain number of free weekends, a vacation, etc.) I will find rest and nourishment. When I don’t get X, I’m disquieted and frustrated; oh, the irony that my grasping for still waters makes me anxious!
Along with that, when I find myself beside still waters, I’m afraid they’ll go away, so I hold those times with clenched fists, attempting to recreate those particular circumstances after they change.
Last summer, my husband and I were home the entire month of July. The time was restorative and life-giving. I planned to recreate that schedule this summer, but when I realized that would be impossible to do this time around, I was frustrated and grumpy.
How the Lord is leading me
Since resuming the practice of reciting Psalm 23 daily, I’ve realized that I don’t need to create my still waters or lead myself to them. The Lord my Shepherd promises to do just that.
Psalm 23 spurs us to stop striving for still waters and instead continue following the Good Shepherd. I can confidently walk into my full summer knowing that He will lead me where I need to go at the right time. As I’ve held to the truth that the Lord will lead me to still waters, I’ve had new eyes to see His provision in ways that I would usually miss.
Our July is still filled to the brim and I don’t have the free weekends I’d hoped. Yet God is graciously providing rest and nourishment through means I would have overlooked if I’d remained angry that my calendar were so full.
Over the past few weeks, several friends have invited us for meals at their homes. I’m embracing my quiet mornings during the week to read and walk my dog in the warm weather. I host a weekly Bible study in my home and I’m continually blessed by the women who come and our discussions of God’s Word.
These still waters don’t look like the lazy weekends I had envisioned. But the Lord is faithfully providing for me as I obey and follow Him.
Following the Good Shepherd
I’m not here telling you to run yourself ragged and say yes to everything. We need to take Scripture’s command to rest seriously, along with embracing our God-given limitations.
For me, that looks like attending congregational worship every week, ideally at my home church. I’m eating well, exercising and reading. I’m making sure I have at least one night at home. And with all of the things I’ve said yes to, there are as many nos.
As I obey God to honor my limitations and rest, I’m not striving to lead myself to still waters through my obedience; I’m simply following my Good Shepherd who promises to lead me to the still waters as I follow Him.
What area of life do you strive to create “still waters?” Relationships, time or work? What might it look like to follow the Good Shepherd, trusting that He will lead you to “still waters” at the right time and in the right way?
About the Author
Abigail Murrish is a professional writer and amateur cook with a love for agriculture and gathering people around the table. Though she dreamed of a busy life in a big city while in college, she’s thankful for her quiet life in the Midwest where she spends most of her days writing and reading, drinking tea, walking her dog, putzing in her kitchen and sharing daily life with her husband, neighbors and church. Also, she likes to watch TV and is an avid fan of Parks and Recreation, the Great British Bake Off and Broadchurch. Find more of Abigail’s writing at abigailmurrish.com.