Shepherd’s Voice

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.
Provision.

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.

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18 Comments

Filed under Musings, My Faith Journey

18 responses to “Shepherd’s Voice

  1. usually i hear it best when i am in the woods, removed from the noise…still quiet places…i am probably a pretty bad sheep at times, but he keeps me in line…smiles.

    • mmm, yes. Nature is such a sanctuary. I’m with you that woods and quiet places help settle the soul enough to listen for Shepherd voice. Thanks for sharing, Brian!

  2. pathoftreasure

    “Do you know the Shepherd’s voice?”– is an excellent question…. there are so many voices calling from the world. There is a wonderful children’s book about this very question, called “With You All the Way” by Max Lucado. I love this little book.
    And– so wonderful to read of your romance being “tied up in spirituality and connection”. It seems your life is blooming…blessings to you, as it all enfolds, new friend.

  3. Do you hear His Voice?

    A question that tends to put us into a spin. That makes us uncomfortable and impossible to answer.

    And how do you hear His voice?

    By truly being quiet around you and of course…trust.

    Beautiful words…Thank you.

    Embrace His blessings,

    Mrs. M.

    • Quiet and trust… quite the pair those two! Your comments also remind me of the truth that HE always does hear OUR voices, and what a comfort that is! Thanks for reading, Mrs. M!

  4. 4 months ago I would have confidently said that I know His voice. Then it would appear I heard HIm wrong, hugely heartbreakingly over time wrong. So I tried to not listen. To tune some of His ways and words out. Only listening to Him in smaller prescribed paths. But this was so lacking it could not last long if at all. So now I just follow as before the best I can, hoping, believing it is His voice guiding me. But I step with more trepidation.

    • Joybird, your words made me want to share this passage from Rilke’s Book of Hours:

      Your first word of all was light,
      and time began. Then for long you were silent.

      Your second word was man, and fear began,
      which grips us still.

      Are you about to speak again?
      I don’t want your third word.

      Sometimes I pray: Please don’t talk.
      Let all your doing be by gesture only.
      Go on writing in faces and stone
      what your silence means.

      Be our refuge from the wrath
      that drove us out of Paradise.

      Be our shepherd, but never call us —
      we can’t bear to know what’s ahead.

      Your words (and Rilke’s words) I think testify to how painful a process it can be to decipher the Shepherd’s voice even within our own hearts. Thank you for your vulnerability and for your courage to continue to lean into that wind of God’s wisdom, even when you feel wounded and confused. The beauty of your soul and the depth of your faith shines through in this comment.

      If there are specific things I can pray for for you, please let me know. But I will continue to pray that you can be honest and open before God, honest and open in this community of blog friends. And that the healing your heart is so needing is swift in coming!

    • Jason Gorski

      I have to say joybird, your post definitely resonates with me.

      I have had moments in my life where the Shepherds voice seemed so distinct and clear to me, that I would have sworn he was practically speaking in my ear. These moments can be intoxicating and yet can lead to terrible disappointment. I’ve arrived at the following Truths to help me with this.

      #1 God is not a puppet master.
      I think our disappointment ultimately comes from the belief that if we hear God’s will, obey it, we will get a prescribed outcome. But God is not a puppet master. He’s allowed free will (some would argue this free will extends to the angelic realm). So if God places a motivation on my heart, and I pursue it with all fervor, it still doesn’t guarantee a particular outcome. There are other factors at work in the world. (This is perhaps a much larger discussion)
      #2 God asks us to bring our whole selves to the table when we engage with him: mind, body (ours and the body of believers), and spirit. Just cause my spirit is hearing/discerning one thing, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t bring my intellect to bear on the situation as well. We need to try and hear the voice of the Shepherd using all our faculties. We shouldn’t (in my view) allow any single part of us to overwhelm and ignore the other parts of us when trying to hear God’s voice.

      Hope that helps some…

      J

  5. This is lovely, when one person’s voice helps you to hear the Shepherd’s voice better!

  6. We like sheep have gone astray…
    So glad the Good Shepherd is there to bring us into the fold.

  7. herspaciousplace

    thank you for honesty! it’s so good to know i’m not alone.

    • eeek! Somehow this comment had gotten lost. I’m so sorry! Just wanted to say thanks for reading and commenting. And it warms my heart to hear that you found solidarity here, in these thoughts.

  8. oh friend. this made me want to weep. i’ve been so anxious these past two weeks, not able to sleep at night… and i’ve heard him say, “i will give you rest.” but i have to let him give me rest. i have to learn his voice, and trust him and not me. please pray for this for me. love you.

    • Emily, my dear friend, I am offering continual prayers for your heart to find a space for that rest, and for God to speak in ways that you are able to recognize and hear. You are in my thoughts this week especially!! So much love for you, Em.

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