Over the last few years, I’ve loved celebrating some of my friends’ milestone birthdays. I’ve traveled to Las Vegas; Fredericksburg, Texas; and last weekend – Oceanside, California. My friend’s husband planned her entire 50th birthday surprise – all we needed to do was get to California. I admit I was a little nervous because I hadn’t seen some of these friends that I’d originally met in St. Louis for around ten years. Several of us had moved to different states and that made staying in touch more difficult. But my worries vanished immediately upon arrival. We fell back into a comfortable rhythm as though no time had passed. We ate good food, laughed a lot, watched the ocean, and talked incessantly. By the end of the short trip, we felt reconnected and full of love from our time together.
In the oft-quoted Psalm 23, the author wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” (Psalms 23:1-3)(NRSV). The Psalmist doesn’t specify how God restores our souls though. Some obvious church-related ways are through prayer and worship. Watching the vast ocean or spending time in nature reminds us of the power of God’s creation and soothes our spirits.
But I think God’s restoration is more varied than what we realize. And much of that restoration occurs through our relationships with other people. God made us for community. Spending quality time with family or friends feeds the soul. Meeting someone for coffee or a meal helps us feel more connected to them and ourselves. When we can walk away from a conversation feeling more whole and complete, we experience restoration. When our child or a friend gives us a hug, we can regain our sense of self and feel God’s love too.
God’s restoration can occur in the quiet, small, ordinary moments of life too. The Message version of the Bible translates Psalm 23 to God, “you let me catch my breath.” (The Message). When we nap, read a book, or take a drive to clear our heads, we stop, slow down, and ease our anxiety. God doesn’t need us to stress ourselves out to exhaustion and depletion. God wants to be our companion, and if we are constantly rushing, we don’t leave room in our days to spend time in relationship with God, others, or ourselves.
In another version of the Bible, Psalm 23 says, God “refreshes my soul.” (NIV). To me refreshment should happen over and over. And I think that applies to our souls as well. God doesn’t promise that our entire beings will be refreshed all at once and remain that way forevermore. Instead, I see refreshment as a process that occurs bit by bit and is continual and constant. This past weekend reminded me of that. We left our time together with the realization that we’d missed one another. All of us expressed a desire to stay in contact more regularly, even if it was just a text with a small update on an event of the day. We decided that the weekend had afforded us a priceless opportunity to catch up and we wanted to be more intentional and build on our momentum going forward. Refresh and repeat.
God is always willing and ready to refresh us. God wants us to feel the love and peace that only God can provide, but we may receive our soul-healing over time, in a variety of ways, and often from other people. Taking a moment to catch our breath can be a gift from God. Let us be glad and give thanks to the One who restores our souls.