Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out . . . I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered . . . I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down . . . .
I have always been a lover of Jesus’ agricultural parables. In college, I took a fascinating class taught by a professor who also raised sheep in Black Earth, Wisconsin. One afternoon, this professor met us on the agricultural end of campus for a demonstration with her sheep and sheep dogs. Using a whistle she would signal to the dogs to round the sheep up in various formations, or hold them in one area. It was an incredibly orchestrated event!
What is implanted in my mind, even years later, is how lost the sheep were. They needed, from the very core of their nature, to be shepherded. Without a clear vision of where to go, they were nervous, distracted, and agitated.
What remained with me from that experience was that we, though beautifully human, are pretty sheep-ish at times. We are restless. Frenetic even. Our minds race through our multitude of small, daily tasks. And then there are the much bigger anxieties:
"Who am I?"
"Is this really my life’s purpose?"
"What if I don’t succeed?"
"What if things just don’t work out?"
"Please, please don’t let . . . ."
These are the things that can keep a girl awake at night! Perhaps that’s why I find such comfort in today’s readings. The verse from Psalm 23 is often recited at funerals to remind us of our eternal rest, but how easily we forget that we are made to rest right in this moment!
What does it mean to lie down? And when do we? Clearly Jesus means something far more here than physically lying down to rest. Do our hearts ever truly "lie down"? Do we abide in the assurance that regardless of where our hearts may have been scattered, the Lord will always seek to return us to His pasture. He can help us to find peace amidst every worry. And as Saint Francis de Sales has written, “He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.”
So take a deep breath, and rest in the knowledge that you, little sheep, are under the care of the best Shepherd there is. Ask Him for the grace to lie down and abide in Him. Amen.
photo credit // source
Karen Schultz is a Certified Birth Doula living a Twin Cities life with a country girl’s heart. Read more about her here.