It is no small thing to be touched by the love of Jesus.
There are always things in our past (or present), big uglies, that we somehow feel can never be forgiven us.
It is, however, miraculous to see the seed of of earnest prayer finally fruit as we began to see ourselves or our loved ones as sheep of the Good Shepherd.
Wholly, recklessly, perfectly loved.
As His sheep, we are buoyed by this promise:
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10: 2-4).
They know His voice.
I had the opportunity the other day to visit some friends who had just bought a farm.
Corralled in a back pasture were 80 or so sheep, lazing under the shade of some distant trees. My farmer-friend, wanting to both check on their welfare and show us the animals up close, knew the way into the pen was by stepping over the electric fence, and this is what he did.
Curious, the sheep turned their soft eyes toward him.
Kindly, he called to them, “Hey sheep,” and, one by wooly one, they stood up and began to munch their way over to him.
They came to him with such trust and unworried-hurried expectation it broke my heart.
They knew his voice.
I want to be like that.
As we watched, my farmer-friend petted and fussed over each one, calling them by name and telling us of all their needs.
Little lambs that needed to be weaned, to have their childish ways put behind them.
Exhausted ewes that needed rest and nourishment.
Bossy rams that needed to learn some manners.
The sheep trust my friend with a relaxing ease. He, in turn, is forever vigilant, scanning their pasture for nettles, filling their water trough, trimming their coats, checking for parasites, chasing the coyotes away.
They delight in him, as he delights in them. They can rest in his presence, because he is trust-worthy.
Trust rests .
Sadly, there is a villain to every story, and the one in this tale is called the enemy of our souls. Jesus calls him a thief.
Once Jesus was teaching, and he told the Pharisees, “Very truly I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber… The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; [but] I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:1,10).
So often, we allow the thief to rob us of all that the Shepherd came to protect us from. We take our eyes off of Him and think somehow that the grass over there is somehow better – tastier, sweeter, richer than the grass we have been given. We even think that the Shepherd Himself is responsible for withholding that good good grass from us.
But that currented fence in between is not so much a barrier to keep us in, but a fortified wall to keep the evil out.
How many times do we open the gate ourselves, invite the destroyer in, through our own stubbornness, pride, or dissatisfaction? Too late, we discover that the enemy is not our friend at all, but a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Sometimes, we are unrecognizable as the sheep we are. I am saddened by this, but forever hopeful, as well.
Watching the farmer interact with his sheep, I was encouraged by Jesus’s promise to lay down His life for the sheep (v.15).
We should not worry, because He declares that His sheep will follow Him, that He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of His hand (v. 28).
He is the Shepherd who will leave the 99 to go after the one. Matthew 18
I want to delight, to be a good sheep, to think contented fuzzy-sheep thoughts, graze good grass, and follow the Shepherd wherever He leads. To restfully trust and trustfully rest. To have life to the full.
I confess that this is a daily fail.
There are many wolves out there.
Our side of the fence is sometimes desperately hard, but it’s a pasture safe.
We are only truly free if we remain inside.