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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
Last week I was a sheep … and admittedly, sometimes a goat. Let me explain.
Last week I was in Israel for a tour of the Holy Land, hosted by my lovely friend, Kathie Lee Gifford. There were 37 in our group—a wonderful gathering of people from different backgrounds and faith journeys— a gathering that Kathie Lee eloquently described as a representation of what the Kingdom looks like.
This excited group of Kingdom sheep eagerly met our shepherds for the week, Pastor Rod VanSolkema and his wife, Libby, who informed us that, under their guidance, we were going to Yada—to know—the land of the Bible with our feet, our eyes, our ears and our hearts.
And we did exactly that. Each day, we followed our faithful shepherds for long hikes into the highest of places (Mount Arbel, Mount Carmel, the Roman Decapolis city of Susita/Hippos, and Masada), into the most barren of places (the Zin Desert Wilderness), and into the lowest of places (the Dead Sea and Qumran). The terrain was not easy. It was rocky and steep. My feet were thankful for sturdy hiking shoes, because sheep need to be sure-footed. My eyes were thankful for the beauty that constantly surrounded us. My ears were thankful for the sound of our shepherds’ voices as they led us and fed us with the Word of God. And my heart was thankful for the comfort and company of my fellow sheep as we encouraged each other and grew to love one another.
Each morning of our trip, I awakened full of eager anticipation for the day ahead, even though I knew our path might be long and difficult. Why? Because I was a very hungry sheep. And I would follow my faithful shepherds anywhere … even into places far outside of my comfort zone … to be fed. I wanted to feed again and again on the daily bread and living water that Jesus spoke of. Everywhere we went, even in the most barren of places, we were refreshed and nourished by God’s Living Word. I learned that in an unforgiving environment, how important it is for sheep to know their shepherd’s voice and to follow him, for he is the one who will lead them safely to food and water. I also learned what happens when you become a goat instead of a sheep.
Sheep are much better at following their shepherds. Goats … well, goats tend to have minds of their own. There were times on our journey when I straggled behind the group, nursing a complaining knee, lost in picture taking, flower-picking, or chatting with a new friend, only to find that I had lost sight of my group. One day several of us tarried too long, lost our group and the trail they had been following. We had no choice but to cry out and wait until our shepherd came back to find us. I expected him to be upset, but instead, he greeted us with joy and led us safely back into the fold.
I learned an important life lesson that day—what I like to call ‘the lesson of the goat,’—that choosing to follow our own will can lead us into distraction and separation from the One who cares and provides for us.
I am forever thankful that we have a Good Shepherd who will never stop looking for us when we go astray and become the goat! The Shepherd who will welcome us back into HIS fold with great joy, and will faithfully lead us beside green pastures and still waters.
I am going to work really hard at being a better sheep. 🙂
A delightful, old french tale tells the story of three soldiers who approach a small...