A shepherd, discerning and experienced, watches over his flock in an open field, empty of threats thanks to the shepherd’s wisdom. Safety, peace, all the flock would ever need is there. The shepherd knows each of his 100 sheep by name and even their unique temperaments. That being said, it was not difficult for him to realize that while he was walking the field’s length, a single sheep had escaped the barrier. The shepherd quickly took account of the rest of his flock: exactly 99. He looked around the edges of the grassy plain, judging that his flock could stay protected there; after all, there was no danger in the field. Only out in the thicket and rocky mountainside nearby could danger take hold of his vulnerable sheep.
Immediately, the shepherd left the pasture and ventured into the bramble covered mountain base. He climbed rocks, pushed back thorns and branches, searching every twist and turn on the rough path in front of him, all to find his one lost sheep. Hours went by, the sun began to lower and create the lovely dimness of twilight. Despite the sky’s beauty, the shepherd grew desperate to find his runaway sheep and return to the fold before night fell. It would be too late for both the shepherd and the entire flock by then. The shepherd made it to the farthest point he had been from his flock, and lo and behold, his lost sheep lay bleating and wounded at a cliff’s edge.
Now I’m sure had you or I been the shepherd, we would have burst with frustration and tired annoyance with this sheep, but this shepherd patiently picked up this sheep, placed him on his back, and began the long journey back to his peacefully waiting flock.
At one time or another, we have all become like the lost sheep in life; by choice or by circumstance. In both situations, though, we have a shepherd who knows right away when we have strayed–Jesus. He will tug on our hearts, drawing us closer to Him, quietly calling out your name, trying to pull you out of loneliness and confusion. He delivers us from the thicket of our sins and the weights the world places on us. We are delivered, restored, blessed once again. Yes, we know our shepherd cares for us as His flock. We are sure He knows our hearts, our intents, our desires, our needs…
But do we know our shepherd?
You see, there comes a time when we, as the sheep that were once lost, come back to the fold. We realize the security of the easy life there, and naturally…never want to leave it again.
“I never want to go back to that dark place again.”
“I was hurt there.”
“I hate feeling how I did while I was in that situation.”
“I’m fine right here; we’re thriving in life right now”
Have any of you thought similar things before when reminded of where you came from? The things you’ve overcome? Thinking of the dark that covered you before your dawn came? Many times I’ve allowed myself to think like this and avoid ever becoming the “lost” sheep again. It’s uncomfortable and can be paralyzing, like the sheep that was wounded and stranded away from its flock.
But there’s a reason for the experience and memory of these circumstances.
Without going through tragedy, stress, stretching, confusion, depression, instability, darkness… without having the knowledge of what it’s like to feel truly lost inside, we would take Jesus- our Shepherd- for granted. Now, I know sheep can’t really comprehend like we as humans can, but I guarantee you that many of these sheep would appreciate their shepherd much more if they could understand the predators that he’s protected them from and the basic needs that he’s met for them in abundance, without them ever asking or giving him anything in return. He loves them unconditionally no matter what. And in the same way, Jesus loves us unconditionally–, no matter what. We often take all He is and does for granted.
And unfortunately, as one can predict, a thriving relationship just isn’t possible where one is taking the other for granted. There comes a time where simply living in your father’s home without knowing him doesn’t satisfy anymore.
Any relationship in life is a two-way street. Those that aren’t balanced either don’t stand the test of time, or they leave an emptiness in the heart of one. God has commanded us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind–not because He demands our adoration, but because He loved us first as that relentless Shepherd. We must all come to that place where we begin to seek after the One who means more to us than 99 other things pulling for our love and attention. Even though you may have just come out of a desolate place, the Shepherd wants to know: Do you appreciate the blessings and comfort of the field more than His loving you enough to bring you out of your loneliness?
To leave behind the things we may enjoy or be comfortable with may be difficult, and seeking for the Shepherd may cause us to relive the experience of life’s dry places. However, every trial is worth it in the end because that is when true relationship growth happens. We begin to know our shepherd as he knows us; we seek after Him as He did for us.
Learn to seek after the One who is the answer to it all. Don’t be content to live in the field and never grow to know Him. When we take that step to enter into wherever God may take us -dark valleys and steep mountains- all for the sake of seeking after the Lord, we can trust that He will pursue us as well. God always meets us where our hunger is, so when we learn to truly appreciate Him and run to find Him, even in the wilderness, He will assuredly walk us through it all.
Your shepherd wants you to pursue Him. He wants you to know Him as He knows you. There is more for you than simply getting out of rough times and small blessings. He has more to offer than just what He does for us…
Remember the time you were the lost sheep… If Jesus asked you to walk through it all again so you could get closer to Him, are you content to stay comfortable in your field? Or will you go out into the wilderness again to find Him waiting there for you?
Will you seek after the One?