Today I need good pasture for my soul. It’s been a hard six weeks—harder than I expected. I’ve been recovering from a two-level lumbar fusion and it’s been slow and painful and boring and lonely. I need good pasture for my soul because I’m tired. It’s been three years of surgeries and infections and I’m losing heart. My soul is weary. And I’m a pretty pathetic sheep.
I’ve spent a full week in John 10, so the sheep metaphor is resonating hard with me. First, I love sheep. I love the woolyness of them. I like how fat and fluffy they get while their legs stay spindly. How in the world do they support themselves on those spindly legs? I live near sheep. There’s a large sheep ranch about three or four miles from my home. It’s pretty stinky because they are all crowded together—hundreds of them. But occasionally the shepherds take them out to graze in fields nearby. It’s so awesome to be driving back from the grocery store and see a cluster of sheep—heads down—grazing comfortably and securely under the eye of a four-wheel-riding shepherd. Sometimes the shepherd is walking around the sheep with his dog—it looks like a Border collie—and sometimes he’s riding his four-wheeler herding them towards fresh fields. He takes them to good pasture. “…the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” (John 10:4)
Of course, I romanticize the sheep like I do most things I know nothing about whatsoever. Like being a detective in Yorkshire, England (I watch a lot of BBC). Or snowshoeing effortlessly across six feet of snow in the San Juan Mountains (it is really, really hard!). In the real shepherding world, sheep are considered helpless, defenseless, animals that need constant oversight and protection. They flock together for protection, but don’t have a lot of sense when it comes to following the leader—if one sheep tries to leap over a 50 ft. ravine, the others will follow (it happened in Turkey, 2006, and 400 sheep died). They trust their shepherd to guide them. They also have a great sense of hearing and recognize their shepherd’s voice and are very in-tune to the tone of his/her voice. The shepherding site, Sheep 201—my new favorite website—suggests the shepherd use a quiet, calm voice. I think I need to read Jesus’ words in John 10 with a quiet, calm voice…let them soothe my soul. Psalm 23 works really well, too.
Still, I crave good pasture. I have a tendency to get depressed easily—a sad movie, a heart-wrenching news story, too many rainy days in a row, or even just being alone day after day after day. I’ve been this way all my life. Another DNA sequence. At times, it wreaks havoc, but most of the time I work through it. I am training myself to head to the Word and not accept the lies my mind keeps telling me. I am a weak, easily-led, vulnerable sheep, yet Jesus willingly laid down His life for me. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, NASB emphasis mine)
Jesus says to the Jews and Pharisees who are questioning Him and listening to Him closely in both John 9 and John 10 (please read them without a break because there isn’t a time break here) that He—as the good shepherd—unlike the Pharisees (who are the thieves and robbers)—comes to give His sheep abundant life. Abundant. Perissōs. The Greek word for “abundant” means “over and above”; “exceeding”; “beyond measure.” What is this abundant/over and above/exceeding/beyond measure pasture Jesus promises us? How do I receive it? If you hear Christ’s calling and you listen and believe and follow, you are receiving it. It’s an on-going “receiving.” But sometimes it’s hard to see the pasture because of all the life clutter that hangs on and around us…around me.
Sometimes I am a discouraged sheep who expects more from her Shepherd than she is finding. I’m not resting in good pasture right now, and that’s a hard thing to admit. I feel positively ashamed and bamboozled by my discouragement.
So how do I rejoin the fold? (Staying with the sheep metaphor here.) What does “good pasture” even look like?
I’m seriously asking God for revelation right now. At this moment. Aha! A partial revelation! I have pasture blockers! I have stuff in my life that I keep re-dredging and re-examining, and that stuff keeps me in dry, brown pasture.
Some of my pasture blockers:
- Two years of tests, steroid shots, MRI’s, X-rays, chronic pain, small surgeries, infection, PICC line, big surgery.
- Confined to my house for weeks at a time due to recoveries and infection.
- No family close to help me through these lonely, despairing moments.
- Grandchildren too far away to see regularly—there is nothing like a grandchild to make you forget yourself!
I sometimes drop into self-pity. It’s a killer and it’s not from God. I’ve said this before, and I wish I didn’t keep falling into this “besetting sin.” “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)
I have to put these things away. It sounds so—ephemeral. How do I put away something that is internally driven and derived? Lord, help me understand how to do this!
These are momentary afflictions, and Christ has defeated them via the cross. I have His promises. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. His sheep hear His voice and recognize it. Sin blocks me from hearing my Shepherd’s voice. I have to repent. Down on my knees, clutching His Word, offering up my sin to His redemptive blood. I’m covered. I don’t have to stay in this brown pasture.
I’m asking the Holy Spirit for a good punch to the gut. Keep me in the fold. Don’t let me drift back into self-pity, envy, and greed (but I really think quartz countertops would make me happier! HGTV—I blame you!)
I realize now the only way to find good pasture is to seek my Shepherd on my knees and in His Word. I drift too easily. It’s time to depend on my Shepherd and not on my own ability to find pasture myself. Amazon.com is not a healthy pasture and doesn’t provide the abundant life Jesus gives. Neither does Target—the 8th deadly sin.
The promised pasture isn’t built around things; it’s built around relationship. It’s my relationship with Jesus that keeps me at peace, relaxing in joy and security, finding true rest.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28, ESV)
Do you have pasture blocks, too? Besetting or habitual sins that keep defeating you and keeping you in brown pasture? I challenge you to write them down—really ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you in depth. I was driving last week—heading towards Ft. Collins—and I just started praying aloud and confessing. I let God reveal all the dirty little secrets I keep hidden from view, and when I got home, I typed up that list and stuck it in my journal—after I confessed and repented.
That was merely a week ago—and…I’m back in brown pasture again! But now I know how to return to the abundantly lush pasture Jesus promises. I open my Bible to John 10 and continue. I stop and pray when the Holy Spirit nudges or gut punches. I repent of my bad attitude, my weak sheepishness. And then I do it again, everyday for the rest of my life.
Here are some scriptures utilizing the “Shepherd” metaphor. Some from Old Testament—God gets pretty fed up with the “false/bad shepherds” that are not taking care of His flock—Israel. Jesus continues berating them in John 10, calling them thieves and robbers. The OT prophets, declare the coming Good Shepherd, Christ. In the New Testament, Jesus is the shepherd. We are His flock–grafted into the promise of Abraham (see John 10:16)
Jeremiah 12:10; Ezekiel 34: 2-10, 23; Micah 5:4; Matthew 2:6; 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4; Hebrews 13:20-21; Revelation 7:17.
Shepherd and sheep: photo credit: Dyn Photo <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/72876267@N07/33901055142″>Modern Shepherding</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Sheep & Border collie photo credit: RayMorris1 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16599764@N05/18958344301″>SHEEPDOG TRIALS A</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Green pasture photo credit: Son of Groucho <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23401669@N00/14053424689″>What? The Flock 2</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>