Wow, this last year has been a doozy! There has been good things that have been wonderful to experience, but there has been an equal amount of heart wrenching moments that brought tears to the eyes and pain to the heart.
Such is life. I honestly do not believe I would remember with true fondness of the good moments if I didn’t have the harshness of sorrow to compare it to. Isn’t it odd? It’s much like when you are in the midst of a stormy night. You know the moon is shining behind the dense clouds, but you don’t realize the beauty of that stormy night until the moon peeks through the cover of clouds, creating a nimbus of silver around those dark clouds. There is true beauty amongst the tears of life.
This last semester of school, I got the true blessing of being able to disciple a friend of mine for a class project. I chose an elder in my church that I adored and wanted to spend more time with because of her ailing health. Louise was 90 and she had a firecracker of a personality. I was suppose to be teaching her about Scripture and other spiritual things, but instead, she put into affect a quote I love. “I’ve learned that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” Even though she downplayed her knowledge (she had spent most of her life studying the Scriptures) I felt her knowledge and I grew because of it.
Louise, a shepherd’s wife, opened up Psalm 23 to me as if I have never read it before. As I grew up around cattle, I unknowingly read the verses regarding God as my Shepherd as if God was my Cowboy. Sounds funny doesn’t it? But it is so true!
Every time I read Psalm 23, even though I knew that this wasn’t true, I read it as if God was driving his children forward, much like a cowboy driving the cattle forward to the better grazing grounds, not gently but with much jostling and even terror. Louise set me right on this. By giving me a living history lesson regarding her husband who had been a shepherd.
She painted this picture of a man who walked before the teeming flock of sheep. Andy (her husband) had been one of the most sought after shepherds in Montana, because of his care of those precious sheep. He would lead them miles, by simply walking before them. Sure, he used dogs to keep stragglers from falling behind, but he didn’t drive the panicked animals towards water. Andy gently lead them, allowing them to follow his footsteps to the choicest watering spots and the most tender shoots of grass. Louise told me that Andy had more that 2,000 sheep under his watch more than once, and he brought them all to market. Never loosing one. Because, he would keep watch and search after that lost sheep.
God ain’t no Cowboy. God is a Shepherd.
God doesn’t drive his children away from evil, he leads them away. Guiding us to places of rest so that we can be restored in his love. He gives us family, in the form of his Body the Church, that loves us deeply so that we can restore our souls.
We will go through those valleys of death and sorrow. It’s life in a broken world. Our Enemy, the Evil One, will tempt us and try to harm us, but if we keep following in the footsteps of our Shepherd, he can’t harm us. We are guided gently. We are comforted by the staff of the Shepherd, keeping us from the pitfalls that are along the path to righteousness. This is why our God is called the Shepherd.
I am so thankful that I got to talk to Louise who truly had the experience of seeing a shepherd at work. It’s a dying profession and many people do not know what means to be a shepherd. I hope that recounting of the knowledge that Louise imparted to me might help you read the Scriptures in a new light.
Louise, my beloved friend, my mentor, and my willing experiment for class, passed away Christmas Eve 2011.
Louise, you will be missed, save a spot for me at the feast and thank you for your guidance as well as reminding me that God ain’t a cowboy, he’s a shepherd!
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.