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.
There is something about a story told well. I can skip the narration, though it adds context. I can breeze through the detailed description, though it adds intensity. For me, the story comes alive in the dialogue between characters you have come to know and love as you have met them, journeyed with them, and rooted for them.
I’m reminded of this by Gregory S. Clapper in this excerpt from his book Living Your Heart’s Desire.
Saving Private Ryan, a group of soldiers is sent out to bring home a soldier whose brothers have all been killed. The government has decided that having one family lose three sons in World War II was enough and that the surviving son – the Private Ryan of the title – should be brought home before he, too, is killed.
In going on this mission, the soldiers are risking their own lives in order to save a fellow soldier’s life. In fact, the mission does claim many lives among the squad sent to save Ryan, including, finally, Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks. As he lies mortally wounded, Captain Miller knows that now, finally, Ryan is safe. With his strength fading and his life ebbing away, the captain pulls Ryan down to his face to give him one last command. He looks Ryan in the eyes and says: “Earn this.” …
Wow. No small task. To consider the deadly havoc and know you are what they died for. Would I be haunted by this? Or would I spend my life living up to their commitment?
Since I look at life through the lens of Christ, I cannot help seeing this scene just this way:
Holding the shuddering body of the dying Christ in my arms, I drip tears of pain and sadness on his heaving chest. “I’m sorry.”
Jesus, smiling up at me, utters “I forgive you. Go and live.”
Haunted or committed?
We humans are weak and prone to guilt and shame, but gratitude is powerful. Can I, day by day, remember that Christ didn’t ask me to “earn” the life and salvation He offered? Rather, He tasked me to live my life as a worthy expression of gratitude for what He did for me.
This blog and the work I do in the world through Fit2Finish – with kids, families, my own included – are expressions of my gratitude. Today, I celebrate 13 months of posts to this blog. Thank you for reading.
Wendy Rilling LeBolt