Text: John 10:1-42, Micah 2:12-13, Numbers 27:16-17
As an Army brat, I did a lot of following when I was a child. Along with my two sisters and my mother, we followed my dad from station to station, Army base to Army base. We moved every few years from the time I was born until the time my father retired when I was sixteen years old. It was an adventure, a privilege, and at times, it was the worst. We didn’t get to follow orders when we wanted to; we followed them when they were given.
When I think about my life as a Christian, I often assume it’s going to be like my life as an Army brat: God gives the orders; I follow. His leadership is cold, indifferent, and ultimately, His orders exist to serve His purposes alone, not my good. My feelings, fears, and preferences aren’t considered. I am not consulted; I am told, sent, and left to deal with the emotional fallout on my own.
With that picture as my guide, my feelings toward God become a deadly cocktail of fear, hurt, and distrust. I’m left wondering if He even loves me.
Thankfully, through Scripture, God gives us an entirely different picture of how He leads us in this life. And that picture, time and time again, is not of a cold General leading unsuspecting troops into battle, but of a Good Shepherd tending to His flock, caring for their needs, guiding their grazing.
I have to admit, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a sheep in a field. But a little internet detective work revealed this: sheep rely heavily on their incredible range of peripheral vision—they can even see behind them without turning their heads. But their depth perception is so poor, they literally cannot see what lies right in front of their noses.
I can say with conviction that these things are true of me, too. It’s easy for me to look to the past behind me, and to the side at what other people are doing. But when I look out in front of me, everything is incredibly hazy. If I’m honest, most of the time, I have no idea where I’m going.
God knows this about me. He knows I have a weak sense of vision, and so He guides me with His voice. He speaks in many ways, and even when I fear He is silent, Scripture reminds me of just how near He really is: providing for me, leading, renewing, and comforting me (Psalm 23).
This is the love of the Good Shepherd in action. With Scripture as my guide, I can see God as He truly is. I can learn from the posture of the sheep: I can follow and rest. I can take in beauty and comfort, even in seemingly dark times. I can love the Shepherd, and trust that no one will ever snatch me from His hands (John 10:28).
There are times when I’d still prefer to follow a god who sends orders via envelope or email, telling me explicitly where to go and what to do next. But that’s not real relationship. The direction and assurance I seek—that each of us need—are found solely in Jesus, the Shepherd-God.
Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.