Frankly, had it not been for the woman who climbed the steps to my porch a few weeks ago to introduce herself and tell me what she brought to the race for the office she was seeking, I probably would have been among the ranks of the apathetic on this election day. But we visited for a bit. She listened as I told her about an issue of particular concern to me. Then we chatted about her three grown boys who nearly matched my three grown girls.
So, when election day came I thought, if I don’t mark anything else on my ballot, I’m going to the polls so I can cast my vote for her.
Well, that’s when I realized how uninformed I was about the other races going on. It’s not easy to cram for an election, you know. Trying to find details about candidates, their positions on issues, their voting record or even their character traits – even with the magnificent internet – is a research project I really didn’t want to undertake.
I dabbled a bit and then headed to the polls, certain of only one vote I would cast. Along the sidewalk outside the elementary school, I gamely accepted both pink and blue sample ballots and then settled into a chair in the hallway, put there to accommodate the long line of voters waiting their turns. There was no line and no competition for a seat. So there I sat and scanned, like a kid hoping to glean just that little bit of information that will earn him the passing grade on the imminent test.
Then I entered the nearly vacant gym, produced my ID, got my ballot, and sat to bubble in (completely) for the candidates I had selected and the bond issues I chose to support. Satisfied, I fed the ballot into the machine that would tally my votes. Whew! What a relief.
That’s when I looked up into the face of a white-haired gentleman, whose furrowed lines all led to the kind smile beneath his well worn WWII cap. He stood, poised to deliver my ‘I VOTED’ sticker.
“Put it right here,” I told him, indicating my left shoulder. He did, and with such joy that I just had to shake his hand.
“Thank you for your service,” I said.
“You were worth it,” he replied.
Wow. When you put it like that…
What if my life were on that ballot? The poor excuse for due diligence, the casual approach to decision-making, the haphazard consideration given to allocation of resources. What if, after casting that vote, I got to shake the hand of the one whose sacrifice made it all possible, and He replied, “You were worth it”?
It’s an election year, folks. Bubble in completely.
But we really can’t expect the hired hands
who have charge of so many sheep
to pay special attention to OURs,
even if we offer to pay them a bit more.
Our sheep belong to us.
We are their shepherds.
Not hired, but chosen.
Our sheep are ours to teach about the flock,
about minding the hired hand,
about staying in the safety of the fold,
about eating only the grass from this pasture,
about waiting their turn for sheering even when they’re really hot and bothered.
We are the shepherds of our own sheep.
We would die for them, wouldn’t we?
Or would we fire the hired hand
hoping to find one who will keep a better watch,
use a louder voice,
and wield a firmer staff?
Only the shepherd of the sheep will lay down his life for his sheep.
When we do what absolutely kills us,
when we love them enough to let them go,
to wander, to be lost, to explore,
then, in the quiet, they may listen for the voice they have learned is love.
If they follow it they will find pasture
where they can frolic and play,
freely, powerfully, joyfully.
That will be home.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. ~ John 10: 11-15
“The way things are reflects the will of God.” That’s the justification for ruling by divine right that I read in ancient texts. A sort of, well I am in power and since God is sovereign and everything works out the way God intends, God must have intended this. He put me in charge. Deal with it.
One look at the world, at our newspapers, at our homes and it is plain to see that “how things are” has come very far from the will of God. Circumstances, events, headlines are a constant shouting to say, “Look how bad things are!” Where does hope live in all of this?
I see its address. It’s there inside the child hopping and jumping and tripping and falling over in a heap laughing. It’s inside the teen streaking down the field to strike the ball with such power I never saw it find the net. It’s in the surgeon’s hands who, with carpentry tools, allow a man to walk again.
God has his hands all over these. We’re masterpieces of the most miraculous sort. He knit us together without a trace of evidence. The way we are put together leaves no doubt.
But events. People. Leaders. Relationships. How can God’s handiwork be the stuff of this? Where does hope live?
I got a call Monday from my 21 year old. She worked in Anacostia this summer. Many days she walked from the metro to her internship. Other days, her boss picked her up. Every day, she passed the Navy yard where, this week, 12 people lost their lives at the hand of another. She called me in tears. “I walked right by there,” she said. I “saw the people working there.” Her boss kidded her to say, “There are your boy friends” in the Navy Yard. “Mom, there is no place that is safe!”
I let her walk there. I let her drive there. I let her take a low paying internship in a “bad part of town.” I put her at risk so she could pursue her passion. And she loved it. Loved the people, both co-workers and residents. Her passion is to bring people together through the arts. She does not see color, or race, or gender, or sexual identity, or income. She just sees people, trying to be more human. She sees God’s humanity much better than I do.
For a moment I am Abraham and she is Isaac, the child whom I must trust to God in the sacrifice. Is it me that God is shaping? Or her, a child of 21, whose innocence is gone. Whose heart is torn by the events of this week, because those people and that place are real. I wish she didn’t have to know this, but she does. She is where hope lives.
Yesterday, God in His great mercy, reminded me…
I must remember. In it all, You are.