Today at work, a pop song caught my attention. A woman was singing about how her dad had wounded her heart, but now she had found a man who was healing it, a man who was teaching her how to trust again. He would never leave, crooned the song. And he would always protect her daughter.
At work in that hot, windowless factory warehouse, I thought about that song for a good long while. “How can she use ‘never’ and ‘always’ about a person,” I pondered, “with so much confidence that she engraved the words into lyrics?”
You have experienced, I’m sure–at least, if you are honest with yourself–the core human longing to be safe, to find places of security and stability in this visible world. Places of belonging, love and trust.
I thought about the core human longings expressed in the pop song, and I thought about my own longing to be safe.
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus said. “My sheep know me. They follow me. I lead them. I am their protector.”
Isn’t it odd, sometimes, how we opt to take Jesus’ role away from him?
Old Me was gripped in the ugly claws of two imposters: Fear and Anxiety. Old Me opted out of Jesus’ leadership and protection many, many times—it was just too scary to trust! Old Me used to say, “The only sure way of being safe in this situation is for me to plan ahead. I will craft security nets below every known threat, and that will keep me safe.”
This plan, that Old Me plan of crafting security nets ahead of time, was a devastating life path.
It caused me to hurt people, to hide, to stifle words of blessing, to run away from Jesus’ plans, and to say “no” to many gifts that my heart desperately wanted. My Old Me safety net plan helped me build walls around myself, higher and higher and higher until I could not see the Shepherd at all. I could hear him, sometimes, but I could not see him.
I could not follow!
By the grace of God, Old Me has been dead a good many years, and New Me is learning, learning, learning.
Learning to obey and follow an unseen Teacher is a skill acquired over time, like learning how to speak a new language or learning how drive a manual car. I am learning to give myself space to get it wrong.
I am learning not to pin “always” and “never” expectations onto people. They are trapped in this flawed, sin-influenced world just like I am.
I am learning to declare “always” and “never” promises that the Good Shepherd has declared about himself, and about me. I am learning to align my actions with his unshakeable promises, such as: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “Where I am, there you will be also.” “I will provide for you.” “Seek, and you will find.” “Ask, and you will receive.”…. on and on and on the incredible list goes!
I am learning to pray, pray, pray.
I am learning to agree with what is true.
I am learning to take authority over what is mine.
I am learning to ask for help.
Can I try to describe to you what the gift of peace and safety given by your Good Shepherd feels like, as he responds to you in this space of learning?
It looks like a joyful sparkle as you gaze straight into a stranger’s eyes.
It feels like the excitement of living a real-life mystery when you surrender your plans into his provision. If the money shows up, you’ll move ahead. If not, you’ll wait.
It sounds like a sweet song of peace, singing “Safe, safe, safe” over you, as midnight vibrations of a gunshot resound outside your drug-hotspot hotel, 4,000 miles from home.
It is a 4 a.m. wake-up call to revelation of clear-cut battle plans.
It is freedom from an ugly, vicious old boss named Control, who stole everything from me.
It is getting my inheritance back!!
All the resources of heaven, flowing unstoppable in the river of Loving and Being Loved by the King.
I know, undoubtedly, that every person on earth has the option to receive a flawless Protector.
I know, so, so well, that he is so, SO good!