He is a seminary student, a future minister, a preacher, intellectual, critic.
I am traditional, steeped in religion from beginning, a dreamer, poet, lover.
And our romance is a beautiful, growing thing, tied up in spirituality and connection. We meet here, across these lines of scripture, as we both dig deeper into our own soul walks, as we both wrestle through the lectionary each week — he for his sermons, I for my writing.
We meet across these shepherd words and share what we have learned about sheep. What they need to eat, to sleep, to be safe. What threatens them, how they are cared for.
He tells me that non-Christians throw “sheep” like slurs, like followers, like mindless, blind obedience. I tell him that inside the fold, we wear “sheep” like honor, like chosen, like faithful.
And I tell him how convicted I have been by my own sheep lessons. I don’t even know how to begin leaning on the wide, soft understanding of God, I say. I don’t know how to walk the straight paths of righteousness.
“One foot in front of the other,” he says.
But I’m already doing that, and I’m going in circles — tiny little circles around my own heart. I’m following myself, not my Shepherd. I’m leaning in the wrong direction, waiting for my wool to pull me down. I want to know how to trust.
“Do you know the shepherd’s voice?” he asks, and I pause.
I think so. But a quieted heart can always hear better. Like Mary, I will recognize him in unexpected guises if my heart is soft, if he speaks my name. Like sheep, I will follow — not blind, but faithful — until he says, “Here. Rest here.” And then I will lie down, sleep, and be safe.
Still waters, green pastures.
These are yet the gifts of my trustworthy God, shepherd all my life to this day.
How do you wear the label “sheep”? How do you recognize the Shepherd’s voice amidst the noise of life? What do you hear the Shepherd say?
Linking up with the Imperfect Prose family:
Photos are from a WWOOFing adventure in the Adirondack region of New York. Top is Brooktrout Lake when the fog lifts. Bottom two are the beautiful gardens of Birdsfoot Farms during fall harvest.