I am just finishing an amazing book by Phillip Keller, who was a shepherd in Africa, and his book is called, A Shepherd Looks At The 23rd Psalm. It only takes a few pages to be brought to your knees, in having your Lord shown in terms of an intimate caretaker and yourself being compared to a sheep. From seeking their own pastures, to petty disagreements within the flock, to falling down and not being able to get up on their own, to being driven to frustration and distraction by the pestilence of insects at the height of summer, one would almost think they are created solely to draw a parallel between mankind and his Savior.
The endless tasks of a good shepherd are staggering. He walks the fields, pastures, valleys and high ground, preparing the land for his sheep, noting poisonous plants, location of watering holes, the threat of dangerous animals and rich meals of grass--never taking his sheep where he had not gone before. He combs the fields day and night for storms and predators and lost sheep…He anoints their noses and heads with oil and sulfur to keep the annoying and destructive flies away, and bring comfort, he keeps them on the move to prevent over-grazing and erosion and parasitic infestation, he guides them with his staff touching their sides so they know he is there…
Despite all this, Isaiah 53:6 says we have turned each one of us to our own way! We blindly, habitually, stupidly cling to the same habits we have seen ruin other lives. Keller says, "Turning to my own way simply means doing what I want to do. It implies that I feel free to assert my own wishes and carry out my own ideas. And this I do in spite of every warning.” Turning to my own way simply means doing what Jayme wants to do?? This isn’t talking about bad people, like cheaters and liars and thieves? Then this is a serious idea that needs my serious consideration!
For me, for most people, this goes on continuously! “I don’t feel like going to the grocery store” “Carrie asked to meet for coffee, but she will talk my ear off” “I’ll just put on another pot of coffee and read one more chapter” “I’m too tired to go to the gym this morning” On it goes! The Good Shepherd says, If any man will follow me, let him deny himself daily and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34) But most of us simply don’t want to do this in the practical sense. We don’t want to deny ourselves (shut the tv off), we don’t want to give up the right to make our own decisions (Lord, can we take a family vacation to Disney this year?) and we don’t want to follow, which is to say, we don’t want to be led in paths of righteousness! Keller says, “The person who is prepared to put his personal life and personal affairs in the Master’s hands for His management and direction has found the place of rest in fresh fields each day.” That’s what I am after. This means giving him my day, every day. Lord, what would you have me do today? And then listen. Ask pointed questions. Is it okay to curl up with my book this morning? “No, you need to take the dogs to the park and then write that card to Becky.” I don't know if I should take the train into town or drive, you know my time is tight “Don’t take the train, drive and I’ll give you a parking spot” And He speaks without being consulted, “I don’t want you to get that book or that food processor or that iphone or ipad (fill in the blank)” "Yes, give her all of it” "Don't go to Indiana this weekend" These things may sound absurd, but how can we hope to hear from God in the big, life-changing things, if we haven’t practiced seeking and hearing in the little things? "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me." (John 10:27) Have I gone overboard in my eagerness to follow? Maybe, but I sincerely doubt it. Peter literally threw himself overboard in his rush to greet the risen Lord and Jesus loved him for it. Jesus never exclaimed, “O you of too much faith!” If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, God still speaks. What is He trying to say to you? Ask him. Be specific. Be deliberate. Expect a response.