23rd Psalm of the Hebrew Bible: “He maketh me to lie down …” (verse 2).
“You’re not the only one, Kelly,” I assure my dog-breath companion. “We’re all regularly made to lie down.”
It’s kinda funny to think of it that way. God glancing over at me with exhausted patience, trying to eat his burrito and barking, “Steven! Lie down!” Funny, maybe, but real and true. I regularly need to be told to lie down. And, should I persist in disobedience, God sometimes maketh me to lie down. You, too. Everybody.
(A quick commercial break here for those readers who “aren’t religious.” Just replace “God” or “he” with “Life.” As in, “Life maketh you to lie down.” That way you won’t be excluded from the discussion I’m inviting.)
It occurs to me there are four essential ways we humans are invited — or remanded — to lie down:
Rest and recreation
Some personalities don’t rest very well. Or very naturally. I’m one of those types. Both my brain and my body are restless. Ever searching and fidgeting.
Like most people, I confuse rest with indulgence and wasting time. But indulgence only appears to be restful. An afternoon of mindless channel surfing actually makes boredom and restlessness worse. Facebook isn’t restful. Neither is texting, video poker, pornography, or shoving a quart of ice cream in your face as an antidote for spiritual malnutrition.
I have to be reminded to “lie down.” To rest through recreation. Real rest is recreation. Literally, re-creation. Play is restful. Humor is restful. Beating myself to death at the gym is, paradoxically, restful. Time with friends is restful. Art, nature, hobbies. Sleep is a good thing.
Injury or illness
Sometimes the respiratory flu maketh me to lie down. In a few weeks the doctor will scope the torn meniscus in my right knee. And he will then demandeth I lie down. And this shall irritateth me and lo, I shall be great with boredom. The limits and frailties of the human body regularly humble us. Slow us. Stop us. Sickness and injury can be, if we’re willing, an important time to remember the limits of being human.
The contemplative life. Meditation. Pondering. Intentional breathing. Centering prayer. Flow. Surrender. All of these disciplines invite us to stillness. Most of what really matters about being human cannot be brought into focus and awareness without stillness. Stop pressing. Stop agitating. Stop talking. Stop thinking. Ignore what you’re feeling. Be still.
Ah, yes. He will someday maketh me to lie down for real. Someday I will lie down and not get back up again.
Maybe the first three examples are practice for the last. Maybe being more obedient to the discipline of rest, the humbling of illness or injury and the nurture of stillness could be thought of as a dress rehearsal for mortality