John 10:2-5 – The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers. (NRSV)
John 10:14-16 – I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (NRSV)
The other day, I saw some sheep in a field near my home. I pulled my car over to the side of the road and watched them grazing. As I watched them, my mind went back to an experience I'd had with a neighbour, Mr. Hill, who owned sheep.
On this particular day, Mr. Hill told me he was pretty tired because he had been up all night keeping an eye on the ewes that were lambing. He watched over them to see if they needed his help to bring their lambs into the world. As we talked, he noticed that one of the ewes was in trouble. He pointed her out and said, "Let's go help her, because it looks like she is lambing for the first time and making no progress."
I thought, "O boy, I am going to be able to help bring a lamb into the world!" But as we approached, she heaved herself up and ran out of reach because she was confused and worn out.
Mr. Hill motioned for me to stay away, and gently he called, "Come, sheep." But she would not come, so he reached out and caught her with the crook that he had carried with him across the field. She did not like this at all and began to struggle. I watched as Mr. Hill turned her head back toward her shoulder. In doing so she lost her balance. He then knelt, and with his leg over her woolly back, he was able to restrain her. He then motioned to me to come and assist him, because he needed my hands to help untangle her unborn twin lambs. A few minutes later, there they were, lying on the straw.
As we walked across the field, Mr. Hill was in deep thought. He said, "You know, Rusty, she and her lambs would have died without our assistance, but as we tried, she ran from us because she had forgotten — because of the challenge she was in — that you and I love her and would do anything to save her." He told me to sit down on the wall near the barn. I could tell as he looked at me that he had more to say. Finally, after a long pause, he said, "Rusty, you know, sometimes we are like that frightened ewe. When certain circumstances enter into our lives, we become afraid like she did. God may enter in to help us like we did with her, but we may move away from Him." He turned to me and said, "If that ever happens in your life, I sure hope you will choose to let God knock you off balance like I did the ewe, and then you will let Him hold you tight so He can work in that moment for your own good."
I responded, "I will try to remember, Mr. Hill." I did. When I looked at those sheep the other day, I remembered how the Good Shepherd wants us to trust Him. We can always be sure of His love.
Prayer: God, may we always see You as a shepherd watching over us as we walk by faith through each day. May we remember to trust You and allow You to work in our lives. May we never run away from You when You enter into our lives to be "a very present help in trouble". May You watch over us and guide us always. Amen.