God, I am a sheep.
For many reasons. Because I am quite often not very bright, because I have a tendency to want to follow the flock without thinking for myself, because when I do think for myself I am likely to wander off and get myself into trouble, because I often bleat on about things and because I am cuddly and built for comfort rather than for speed. And because I do a good line in sheepish, haha.
Also, because you are my Shepherd.
I am glad you're my Shepherd. I want to be looked after. I'm feeling a bit pathetic tonight, Lord, and I want to cuddle up and be safe and not have to make much of an effort. I'm tired; it's been a long day and I haven't got much left. I'm not sure which way to take and it's getting dark early. Come and find me, will you? Gather me up, Lord God, put me on your shoulders and take care of me.
'The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.'
Oh, Lord, there are so many things that I'm convinced that I need. Things that I want, things that I think I'm entitled to, things that I long for. I want a new pillow because I wake up every day with a crick in my neck. I want some peace and quiet and solitude in the middle of the half-term school holiday. Ha. I want to be a patient, creative, energetic mother to my little girls. Ha. I want to be thin. Ha. I want inspiration. I want a packet of biscuits. I want to go to sleep.
Help me to remember that I have all I need already. I do know that, deep down. You don't say that you'll love me when I'm a better mummy, or when I lose a few pounds (or more) or when I write something profound that people want to read. You take me as I am, right now, and you love me. Even though I am a sheep, you love me. I am precious to you. I am worth protecting and you go out of your way to keep me safe. Even though my legs are short and my undercarriage often gets muddy. Even though I nibble things that I shouldn't and make myself ill. Even though I am woolly and stupid and get stuck on things and need rescuing. You always come for me.
'He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.'
Green pastures. Lush, grassy meadows. Grassland for the express purpose of grazing. A field full of good stuff to eat. You know the way to my heart, Father. A sheep would like that. And me... I lie in the pastureland and I can feel the softness of the grass under my back. The sky above me is blue and there's a gentle, refreshing breeze in my hair. I can see the tall grass waving and the sun warms me. I can hear the sound of water nearby and birds singing and all is calm, peace. I know that you are close by and I need fear nothing. I am completely relaxed. I am safe, knowing that I can drift and dream and find space to recharge. There is rest in your presence.
'He guides me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and staff, they comfort me.'
Psalm 23: 3-4
I'm glad you guide me, Father God, because I can't fathom the right way to go on my own; I just can't do it. So many signposts, so many people to persuade me that I should go this way, do this, stop doing that. I need your voice, not that of the satnav, however clever it is. I need to learn to hear you more clearly, and I need to learn to stop and listen more often rather than pushing on regardless with my own ideas, my own plans.
Lord, I've been in some scary places and I know with complete confidence that you have never left me. You are there in the tough times as well as in the green pasture.
You keep me close, you never falter.
You are endlessly patient.
You reassure me and you comfort me.
I am never lost in the cold. I want to stay by your side, Lord Jesus. I'm not wanting to do this on my own.
'You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.'
You promise that if I stand by you, then you'll stand by me. I'm on the winning team. If you are for me, who can be against? The God of creation is happy to tell the world that I am his child. You won't disown me; instead you'll make it clear that I am yours. You and me, Lord Jesus. We'll eat together. I'll be your guest at the table. Me. How amazing is that? I'll be your honoured guest. We'll open a bottle. It's all too much; you are more than generous - so very much more than I deserve.
'Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'
This part always touches me on some deep level that takes me by surprise. These days, Father, I'm coming to understand that it is the Holy Spirit in me that enables a reaction like this; I am incapable of it on my own. I realise that when my soul reaches for you as it does when I read these words, it is because you have planted eternity in my heart. Lord Jesus, my Saviour, your goodness and love are wrapped around me. I feel it. I am trying to dwell in you now, in this busy, crazy world with its beauty and cruelty and its wonder and despair, but I know that one day the struggle will be over.
Father, you've never let me down. I have let you down more times than I can count, but you - never once. You have stood by me when you could have disowned me. You have stood up for me when I was indefensible. You have blessed me more than I will ever know and I have been so far short of grateful.
You are good and you are love. You are always there. You have said that you will never forsake me or abandon me and you never break a promise.
You hold my life in your hand, Lord God, and I know that there is no safer place.
In this world I find that I'm constantly looking for glimpses of your kingdom; a shaft of light from your doorway, but I know that one day I will dwell there for ever. Sometimes in this world I see you for a fraction of a second; I see the work of your hand, I see the little notes of love that you leave for me. For every one that I see and snatch up and hold close to me I'm sure that I miss a hundred, for I know how much you love me.
Lord, I want to notice. I don't want to miss a single thing when the God of Heaven reaches down to speak to me. Whether it's a sunset or a rainbow or a flower or a flame, Lord, I want to see; really see. Give me eyes to see, Lord Jesus, and ears to hear. Don't let me be too busy wandering off in my own little world bleating discontentedly, to see your glory.
One day, Lord, I'll see, won't I? I'll be right there. There'll be no more predators to stalk me and no more cliffs to fall down. No more distractions from the main event. No more confusion or frustration or inability to hear.
I will dwell in your house forever.
There'll be a party and the wine will flow.
Yes please. But in the meantime, I'm your sheep. I am a sheep in your flock. I want people to look at me and see how well looked after I am; to see that I live my life with confidence in my Shepherd, not in fear of the wolves. That I am cared for. I am safe and I have peace.
I have peace even when the storms come; that's what I want, Lord. I think that sometimes I'm no different from sheep in other flocks who mill about in a panic when the thunder rolls and the lightning flashes. I run about wildly and risk getting lost or hurt when all I need do is nestle close and sink into the warmth of your protection.
I am a sheep of your flock and I'm proud to tell the world that I am.
I am a child of God. I carry your mark and I know to whom I belong. I know that I am loved.
There is no safer place but in your pasture with my brothers and sisters. I know the sound of your voice and I know that you will never let me down.
'The Lord is my Shepherd'.
I am your sheep.
'Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you for ever;
from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.'
Psalm 79: 13
Oh yes. Amen.
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