Chapter 3 takes the part, "He makes me lie down in green pastures."
On page 33 of the book, Keller says that in order for a sheep to be willing or able to lie down, they must be free of fear, free of friction with others, free of pests and free of hunger. If these conditions are not met the sheep will not lie down. More on this later.
He also talks a bit about the idea of "green pastures." He says that pastures can be existing/natural, or they can be made or prepared by the shepherd. At least part of the notion of green pastures for the Christian is the idea that God and his church are the green pasture. My relationship with God is more of the natural one, where no one needs to do any preparation. I can approach God on my own, and feel the refreshment that comes from a relationship with him. The church on the other hand, is more of the prepared pasture. It has to be made green. As I thought through this, I reflected once again on the research that indicates that parents of children with disabilities feel supported by their individual faith (the natural pasture) but not by their corporate faith (the prepared pasture, or I guess the pasture that has not been adequately prepared).
Keller goes on to talk about how a pasture is prepared (p 41). Once again as He went through this, I thought about the parallels with the church relative to people with disabilities and their families and how the church needs the same types of preparation.
Scriptural verses came to mind...
-Clearing of rocky land: Jesus did a lot of this (see Luke 6:4, 11:39-44 and Mark 7 about corban)
-Tearing out brush, roots and stumps: Matthew 15:13
-Deep plowing and careful soil preparation: John 9:3-5
-Seeding and planting special graines and legumes 1 Corinthians 12:22
-Irrigating: 1 Corinthians 1:25-30
-Taking care of crops: James 1:27
In order for the church to be a green pasture for people with disaiblities and their families: a place of refreshment, relaxation, support, without fear, friction, pests or hunger many changes need to happen.
We must remove fear, particularly fear of rejection, judgement and social isolation. No one who fears what might happen at the church will ever come to the church let alone consider it a green pasture.
We must remove friction due to intolerance of social skill differences, the program changes that might be required, and the general flexibility that must happen.
We must prevent/remove pests. The pests of state agency/school problems, lack of understanding of the behavior of people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or autism, and understand the differences of life experience if I am a person with disability or a family member.
We must address provide opportunities to address the hunger of those who would come in areas of worship, Bible study, membership, acceptance and the provision of respite.
The more we endeavor to do the above, the more the church will actually become a green pasture. In a previous post, I commented on the phrase I read in a curriculum that states, "Acceptance does not change the reality of one's condition." Creating a green pasture is the creation of an environment that changes "the reality of one's condition." In particular by addressing the social consequences of disability. At least socially, the church can become the pasture that those affected by disability long for.