From the Painful Place
Caught in the thicket, the little lamb stopped moving and waited. There was no use trying to escape from the sharp sting of prickly bushes. Surely, he thought, the master will soon find me.
As he lay there lost and alone, he thought about his brothers and sisters, his mother and father, and he began to cry. Why had he wandered off?
Suddenly, he stopped crying. I must be brave. What if a wolf or a coyote hears my bleating and finds me? Certainly, they’ll eat me up. So, he lay still and waited.
Just before the sun went to bed for the night,he heard footsteps coming his way; the familiar footsteps of his master, and the welcomed bark of his sheep dog.
They stopped in front of the bramble bush and looked down at the little lost lamb. Within seconds the lamb felt the strong arms of his master lifting him up and enfolding him in his arms. Never was the little lamb so happy to be found. At last he was going home. He couldn’t wait to be reunited with his family.
Back in the sheepfold, the little lamb poked around as he tried to figure out what seemed different. His family didn’t come out to meet him. He noticed a brand new gate at the entrance to the sheepfold, and inside there were signs of a violent attack. The little lamb’s joy quickly turned to sadness. His heart began to beat faster as he realized every member of his family had been killed by a coyote.
For several days, the lonely, little lamb could not stop crying every time he thought of his family. Oh how he missed them.
Then one day, something happened that made the lamb stop crying. Suddenly, it occurred to him that although he missed his family, he was still alive.
“The end,” my sisters and I always said in unison; a funny habit that always ended in giggles whenever Grammy finished reading our favorite story. Then, like the little lamb in the story, we waited for her to place the book on the table, fold her arms around us, and draw each of us girls as close to herself as she could.
Now, if you had ever met Grammy, you would know that nothing about her was pint size. So, one of us always claimed her lap, while the other two nestled under her massive embrace. Then we waited again to hear her side of the story, one of her many versions of “the real meaning,” as she liked to put it.
She always began with, “Now remember my little lammies…,” and then a nugget of wisdom followed.
This one we had almost memorized:
“The little lamb was very unhappy while in the thicket. There may be times in your life when you’re unhappy and you wish things could be different. But that might be just the place God wants you to be, because you see, He’s protecting you from something much worse; something that you’ll know nothing about until later.”
Once she held us tighter than I’d remembered, and it sounded as if she was almost talking to herself:
“I wish I could tell you that you’ll never have any disappointments like I’ve had, or like the little lamb that lost his family. I can tell you this; even though you might have disappointments in life, if you put your trust in God, sooner or later, He will take care of all your disappointments.”
As I write this story I do so with a firm conviction that truth is stronger than my fictional Grammy who invariably got it just right. To keep us from things that harm us spiritually, God turns the painful place into our place of safety; always for our good, but nothing like we expected. "And lest I should be exalted above measure,” says Paul, “A thorn in the flesh was given to me."
To be caught in one of life’s brier patches may be the best thing for us. Certainly, from our perspective, it's hard to lie quietly without bleating when it hurts, or to accept dwelling even for a moment in the less desired place. However, if we believe that “in acceptance lieth peace,” then, when the time is right, our Master will eventually rescue us from the painful place, take us in his arms, and carry us safely home.
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