Thursday, June 8, 2017

When the Shepherd Teaches Through Sheep

When I married at the age of eighteen, my family increased with not only a husband, but his parents, and a younger sister and brother. My new in-laws loved me as a daughter. I snuggled into the warmth of their family like a baby in a blanket. My father-in-law and I had an unspoken bond of love. At our wedding, he told my new husband, his son, he'd better take good care of me.

Bronson, my father-in-law
The first time we met was in a diner in Montgomery, West Virginia while we were still in college. He was working close by and met us for supper. The stories I'd heard of how he was a rough and tumble man who worked hard, said few words, but carried a great presence, were right on target. I was terrified of him from the first handshake. The description in my mind increased after our first introduction.

As time went along and I got to know him, a different man appeared. His tender side emerged every spring, along with his green thumb. There was nothing that man couldn't do with a pile of dirt, some seeds, and a little water. He also loved his family. His generosity and kind heart showered his girls with the largest box of chocolate to be found on Valentine's Day.

Lucy, fresh from the farm
This man I was so afraid of in the beginning of my relationship with his son did something that has taught me many life lessons. He went turkey hunting in the mountains of West Virginia every spring where they had a small camp. One of the neighbors was a local farmer. Bronson, my father-in-law always stopped to visit before he left. One of his sheep had died, leaving a set of twins the farmer was feeding with a bottle. For whatever reason, my father-in-law thought of me. I got the surprise of my life when he pulled in my driveway and got out of the truck carrying two of the sweetest creatures God ever made, with the biggest grin plastered across his face. I was never afraid of him again.

My life as a shepherdess was born that day.

This spring, my Friday morning Bible study group studied the book, Finding I Am by Lysa TerKeurst. One of the chapters was titled, I Am the Good Shepherd. It was my favorite because of my season of shepherding. It was easy for me to picture the references and apply them to myself.

The words of Psalm 95:6 jumped off the page:

"Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our maker;
for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care."

A sheep has to fold its front legs to lay down. It looks as if the sheep is kneeling. It's knees are rough and calloused where the wool has been rubbed off from kneeling.

Lucy, with two lambs of her own
Scripture says, "we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." We are to kneel in worship.

As I read the words on the page, I pictured my own knees. Are they rough and calloused from kneeling in worship? Do I submit myself to His care or do I try to meet my own needs? Do I recognize Him as my God? I must submit myself in humility before true worship can take place. I must understand that everything comes directly from His hand. He is my provider, my protector, and without Him I am nothing. I am exposed to danger, to unseen elements that only He can protect me from. Do I truly understand what it means to be under His care?

Another thing I learned is that He loves me and you tenderly and lovingly as a shepherd loves his sheep. Just as I discovered I had no reason to be afraid of my father-in-law, I need not fear God and His plan for my life. My awe of Him, my worship of Him, yes, but not the kind of human fear that causes distrust.

My prayer is that I have knees that tell the story of how much I love Him. I am so thankful for gifts of love from unexpected places from people He placed in my life, even hard-headed sheep to teach lessons that last a lifetime.

What are the unexpected gifts you've been given that have taught you a life lesson? Nothing of value is wasted. Everything we go through, good or bad, can be used to strengthen us and then we can pass it on to another.