“The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.”
The Lord is my shepherd. As I sit here and meditate on this Psalm I wonder how many times I have said these words. How many times have I recited this, repeated it, not really even thinking about what I was saying? There's a reason why this Psalm gets as much attention as it does, it is a masterpiece. It is familiar to the church and the unchurched alike (thank you, Coolio). That's the fundamental problem, it is familiar.
The Lord is my shepherd. There are so many things that can be said about the role of a shepherd and the importance of the comparison between the occupation and God. I know that I've sat under various teachings speaking about this very thing. If you haven't, I recommend that you take some time to seek them out, the correlations are enlightening, to say the least. In fact, shepherds are all through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They are important to God. The word itself appears 56 times, but that is not why I am writing to you today.
The Lord is my shepherd which means that I am a sheep and until recently I was far too familiar with the concept to fully grasp the implications. (Not that I believe I am in full understanding of them now.) I shared last week about how 2021 was a year of great trial in my life as well as great growth. Somewhere along the line last year my perspective became skewed which opened a door for pride and bitterness to start contending against my life. All I could focus on was the external. I spent so much energy defending against the attacks that I missed where I was inviting them in. Then I felt the crook of His staff and God sent a shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd but He works through people and He sent me one at just the right time. See the thing is that I have fallen in love with God. Truly my heart cry is to please Him, to follow after Him, to look more and more like Him so when sin or wrong perspectives are highlighted in my life the last thing that I want to do is allow them to keep growing. I want them gone! Anything that stands opposed to who God is or the life that is mine in Him needs to go. I lived separated from God, I know what that looks like for me and it scares me to no end what I am capable of when calling the shots and doing things my own way. I cannot survive without Him. The Lord is my shepherd.
So long story short, I was made aware of the root of the issue, the place that the attacks were stemming from. Somewhere along the line, I transitioned from Mary to Martha. My favorite place to be is sitting at God's feet, learning from Him, seeing more sides of who He is. I've found more peace in that place than I have ever experienced anywhere else. Then the in places where I used to be learning I started just serving and so the seed took root. Thank God that He is a good shepherd and loves me too much to leave me wandering off towards a cliff.
So I had the conversation, I prayed and sought God's heart and I allowed Him to prune me—to deal with the areas that had become overgrown. I was so grateful to finally be at the root of the problem and to be actively fighting against the scheme of the enemy in a productive way. Then the shame came.
How could I possibly have let this happen? I have people that look up to me and here I was a failure! Why did I not handle this sooner? Why did I not fight harder? The thoughts were relentless! I was embarrassed and ashamed and tempted to step away from everything because who was I to be in a position to speak into anyone's life when I can't even handle my own...when I can't be perfect. That's ultimately what it came down to. I love God and I don't want to fail. Ever.
Then in the middle of the chaos and self-depredation, I hear the beautiful whisper of my Lord say, “Just because a sheep needs shepherding does not mean that it is a bad sheep. It means that it is a sheep.”
I am a sheep and He is my shepherd and I am so grateful for His rod and staff that help to keep me on paths of righteousness. So many times we try to run from His correction because it's uncomfortable, or embarrassing, or because it requires sacrifice and effort on our part. But here's the thing, God doesn't go around wielding his staff like a battering ram and he doesn't go around breaking our legs regardless of what myth you've heard on ancient shepherds, there is no historical record of them ever breaking the legs of their sheep to nurse them back to health. It is impractical and cruel and our God is neither!
Sheep are stupid animals, they are cute and cuddly but helpless without their shepherd. Most of the time I’d rather not identify as a sheep. I'd rather be a golden retriever—loyal, smart, adorable. I mean come on everyone loves a golden retriever! That's more how I’d like to perceive myself, which is the problem. It's when I start to believe myself sufficient that I end up careening towards a cliff.
So I am a sheep and sometimes I am going to need the crook of my shepherd to bring me back in line. How grateful I am that He will use it. Every time He will use it. Every time He will come after me. Every time. He is just that good. He loves me just that much. What shame is there in that? The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want.
Written by Amanda Strauser