To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. -George MacDonald
Curiosity and a sliver of romanticism moved us to this small parcel of agricultural land. This one acre in the middle of town, allows all manner of animals and projects with no presiding covenants or committees. After perusing glossy magazine spreads and Pinterest worthy posts, I assumed my green thumb would emerge with little to no provocation, just an innate ability that would spring forth with the proper opportunity. After these three years, I’ve managed a hefty crop of cucumbers, beets and herbs. All other efforts fail after I tire from the constant weeding and watering, the fate of my seeds at the hands of mother nature, which never ends well in the dry Colorado summer heat.
My daughter, however, has utilized our plot to further her love for animals. Keeping sheep and raising lambs has occupied much of her year, ending with an opportunity at the Boulder County Fair to present her lambs for show and auction. The experience, as you can imagine, is thrilling to witness – the fruition of months of dedication. But, pride and relief are tinctured with heartbreaking grief by week’s end.
The competition is tough. These kids push, pull and prod their lambs into submission, eyes affixed on the judge who circles the ring, scrutinizing each child and their animal handling skills. It appeared as if Claire and Nickel (her lamb) had a pre-arrangement. Nickel did not budge after placement. Claire stood calm, rubbing her lamb’s ear with reassurance and love, eyes peeled on the judge. Nickel made Claire look good, but Claire did not win. Claire lacked intensity. She lacked the desire to manhandle her lamb.
Claire is a shepherd. She has earned her lambs’ trust, allaying their fears with tender, reassuring clucks and generous helpings of food. She showed up and loved them well, oftentimes finding them asleep, standing tethered to the fence, during training. Their trust and rest implicit, confidence full and yielded to their shepherd.
What if, as Christians, we were beacons of trust? What if we were models of rest? What if we practiced what we say we believe?
We do not have to fight for Jesus. We do not have to fight for holy. We are asked to lay down our fight each new day, to surrender our lives and pick up our crosses. Crosses of justice, mercy, kindness – beams of goodness in our intense worlds. We are invited to rest, to lean against the folds of our Shepherd’s robe, trusting in the unassailable fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing.
As the lambs are not ignorant of surrounding threat, we are not ignorant either. We are engaged, present and active in our world, living aware. With discernment and wisdom, we relieve the pain and suffering. With shrewdness, we uncover lies and injustice. With grace, we receive our marching orders, radiating love by dismantling walls erected from fear and hatred of “the other”.
The lambs will die. This is the part no-one likes to discuss. I pray their beloved meat fills bellies and nourishes bodies and souls across the county and state. Death is not to be feared. Through death, we experience resurrection – new life, new purpose, new hope.
The essence of God is love. The selfless work of Jesus is love. Their relationship is one of complete trust and dependence, even to death. Our human story, our purpose is love, too. We are invited to lay down ourselves daily, to pick up our cross, to follow our Shepherd, to trust. This trust may even lead to death, but we must remember, death is not the end of our story. Death is the avenue for life, an abundant and surrendered life, a life of trust and rest and grace and hope. My daily death means I don’t have to choose fear. My daily death renders me free – for I trust my Shepherd. My daily death enables Life – resurrected Life.
In this season of accusation, fear-mongering and division, we have the perfect opportunity to find our rest, to be beacons of hope and leaders in trust.
What if, instead of being outraged, I rested?
What if, instead of wishing I had the perfect words to change the minds of all people, I trusted?
What if, instead of fighting for our own rights, we shepherded one another?
We can close our eyes in the midst of chaos because fear doesn’t have to wage its sordid war against us. Our story, no matter what happens in this world of ours, no matter who is elected, does not end in death. Love wins and Life happens.
We have good work to do. We have bridges to build, walls to dismantle, forgiveness to practice, beauty to create, reconciliation and reparations to make. We have people to honor and trails to wander.
Let us, like sheep, rest in our Shepherd, trusting and believing we are loved, wanted, worthy…