I like to sing the hymn, “This is My Father’s World,” because it helps me recollect that courage is my birthright.
Sometimes I get frustrated with the slow process, the way my head-faith doesn’t match up with my emotions and heart reality. Some days the brokenness and self-absorption, the underlying this-is-not-the-way-it-is-supposed-to-be is overwhelming and I just want to hurry up and be sanctified already. Faith-filled because of insta-healing. Done with the struggle.
You and I both know that rarely happens.
The good news is that Jesus sticks fast. He doesn’t leave us to ourselves or abandon us. He doesn’t even wait for us to realize that we’re broken and self-absorbed. It’s like parenting a young child. You don’t tell a two-year-old to quit being so self-focused. It’s just the way he is at two. It’s just the way we are in sin. We’re a mess.
We really are terrified sheep. See that one over there? The one who is frenetically racing around the sheepfold, quaking in fear? See the joyless one? She’s rushing from one thing to the next, harried by circumstances and hounding memories, and fears of the future. She’s got raw wounds and infected flesh.
She’s beat up and starved, because she’s so afraid she never sits still long enough to find true nourishment. She will continue to run, until she actually dies, because she knows no differently. Even if someone could explain to her why it really doesn’t make sense for her to be afraid given her reality, she would find no peace or rest in that perspective.
This sheep on her own will die. She will die because of her wounds. And she will die because she is so blinded by herself.
Perhaps someday this sheep will be able to root out the fear and feed in security. Perhaps she will venture out to the wide-open pastures there for thetaking. Perhaps not. Whatever she ends up doing, whatever she does in this present moment, her only hope is to stick close to the shepherd. She may still hover about his knees, quaking at imagined threats, but he doesn’t mind. He will protect her from any true threat and give her exactly what she needs.
And do you think any passable shepherd will leave her cringing there at the edge of his cloak? No, he will gather that wounded scared-to-literal-death sheep in his arms, and carry her close to his bosom. He’ll do the same for you. He tends his flock like a shepherd, and he gently leads those who have young. He invites them to feast on His presence even when they are beset by enemies. He is with them in the dark moments. He will lead them beside still waters. He will restore their souls.