By Mary Lee Downey
Executive Director, Community Hope Center/Spring of Life UMC
The Lord is my Shepherd. Growing up in the church this was a line I remember hearing from a very early age. I remember the imagery of the old painting above the baptismal in my small southern church. Jesus, robed as a shepherd, staff in hand, and the sweet small lambs gathered around him. What a peaceful image!
If only herding sheep were really like that. Now, I don’t have that much experience in actually herding sheep, but growing up in south Arkansas, I did have the opportunity to herd some pigs every once in a while. I’ve seen cows herded from field to field.
Here’s what I know about moving animals from point A to point B. It’s hard. They need constant direction. They wander off mid-journey and you are constantly circling around to make sure that all the animals are still in the pack. The animals are often stubborn. They stop and have to be prodded to keep moving. Even when you are trying to drive them to a place of good (such as to their daily food or water source) they still will sometimes fight against you and refuse to move forward.
Jesus is the good shepherd. And sometimes I think that goodness is completely exemplified in how patient Jesus is to us. There is analogy after analogy of how we are like the stubborn sheep (or any other animal being led). We are strong-willed. Resistant. Unwilling to move forward even when the results are in our best interest.
We have a God who walks besides us. Guides us. Directs us. Circles back around to us and makes sure that not a single one of us is left behind. We have a God who is willing to lead us – even when we don’t realize that we need to be led. The season of Lent is a journey. Maybe you decided to “give something up,” or “add something” and now here it is a week later and you’ve already feel like you’ve failed. Rely on your Good Shepherd. Start again. Try again. Get back in line and keep following. Don’t worry if you misstep. Jesus will be there, staff in hand, ready to bring you back into the fold again.
Prayer: Gracious God. You are so good. So good that wherever we are, or whatever we do you still love us. There is no thing we can do, no place we can go, nothing that could separate us from your love. Help us to remember your love and mercy as we seek to follow you all the days of our lives. Amen.
1. Where is a place that you need to let Jesus “shepherd” you in your life?
2. Are there times in your life where you didn’t want to move but looking back can see God’s guidance?
3. How can we model Jesus and help lead others in our lives towards the love of God?