“All like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to our own way . . . .” Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)
We make plans and God laughs. That’s what my daughter always reminds me. We, like sheep, are wandering — going nowhere — merely “existing.” Ever changing yet remaining the same. No one smiling. No one touching. Disconnected from everything and everyone, but our cell phones,Twitter and Facebook. Always listening, but never hearing. Ever looking, but never seeing. We enjoy the “Dancing of Stars” more than we do “walking” for the sake of our own health. “Reality television” has become more real than actually living. We are lost in what I call, “perpetual busyness.” Always moving then asking, “Are we there yet?” We have become so preoccupied with the budgets and bottom lines of the world that we have forgotten “We are the world.” — “We are the people–God’s people.” “We are the sheep of God’s pasture.” And as Scripture says, “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves.” Yes, “we like sheep have gone astray and have each turned to own way.”
I see now why many times, Scripture describes us as sheep. One Michigan sheep breeder notes, “Sheep are fearful, gullible, stubborn, helpless creatures, branded as the “dumbest” of all animals. Sheep must always be “on the move”with a predetermined plan. But Scripture teaches, we have no plan. “We are not our own.” We are totally dependent on the shepherd for ALL our needs. And many times, what we need is “rod and staff” guidance. Stories are told of ancient shepherds, who when a single sheep would continually wander off, would strike the sheep with their staff, breaking its leg. But always, immediately, with kindness and tenderness, would set the leg, splint it, and carry the sheep around his neck making sure its head was close to his heart, until its leg healed enough for the sheep to walk again. After that, the sheep would never again leave the shepherd’s side. Many times, “healing hurts” but it brings us closer to the Shepherd. This analogy helped me to see some things in my life.
For a long time, I was lost in busyness; going my way and doing my thing. I was busy making plans and setting agendas. And, before making many life-altering decisions, I often neglected to consult my Shepherd. I was always aware that the Shepherd knew best, but I was just too busy to care. I see now why my strength had to be broken. My Shepherd had to settle me down so I could be still long enough to hear His voice and understand that He knew me better than I knew myself. Now I understand why when I fell, and seemingly could not get up, it was God’s placing me on my back to make me look up. Yes, sometimes, “the Shepherd will make you lie down.” I didn’t recognize it then, but I am grateful, today, that my Shepherd “chastened me with His rod” and “comforted me with His staff” in my stubbornness. Thanks be to God that the Shepherd of my soul cared enough to lovingly return me to the safety of the fold with no desire to wander again.
The prophetic and unforgettable words below, are those of great singer and preacher, Dr. Wintley Phipps. He spoke them just before he sang one of my favorite Hymns. They affirm the Lord’s constant presence and gentle leading throughout every season of my life. It is not a coincidence that I discovered this video online in my 26th year of Ministry and that Dr. Phipps recalls a significant event that happened to him exactly 26 years ago. “God is an awesome God, who reigns from Heaven above with Wisdom, Power, and Love.” According to Dr. Phipps,
It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you have been through.
The words above rang true throughout my life, and the Hymn Dr. Phipps sings on this video became my mantra of thanksgiving for all the Lord brought me through. I sang this very Hymn as a Postlude throughout ALL the years of my professional Ministry.
Thank you Father, for your chastening rod of love that drew me back to your heart and would not let me go. Thank you for laughing with me and not at me. Thank you for reminding me, so I can remind others that at the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters in this life is the prospering of our spirits. Thank you Lord for restoring your spirit within me and enabling me to say — through every test and trial, “Whatever my lot, it is well — it is well — WITH MY SOUL!!!!!”