All of us like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. [Isaiah 53:6a (NLT)
In the years that followed our first maze experience, we continued the pumpkin patch/corn maze tradition but at a farm with a smaller and easier maze. While there were no arrows on stakes to assist the totally confused, there was a larger and better map. Since my daughter and husband have a far better sense of direction than do I, they carried the map and led the rest of us through the maze.
When grazing, sheep like to keep at least four or five other sheep in eyesight and I’m no different. As long as the family remained in view, I paid no attention to where we were. On one outing, after noticing some deep blue morning glories, I stopped to take photos. Spotting a butterfly near the flowers, I briefly turned away from the family to follow it down the trail. When I turned around, my family was nowhere in sight. With no map and in a labyrinth of corn stalks, I was totally lost. Every path seemed to be a dead end and, having left my phone in the car, I couldn’t even make a call! As I wandered in what I hoped was the right direction, I grew anxious. Eventually, I heard someone call my name. Looking up, I saw my family standing on a high viewing platform in the middle of the corn field. From their vantage point, they managed to guide me through the maze until I rejoined them.
Until I got lost in that maze, I’d often wondered about Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd. If the shepherd was properly shepherding his flock, how did that one sheep get lost? Now I know! By guiding the flock, the shepherd was doing his job and, by obediently following their shepherd, the rest of the flock were doing theirs. But, that one lost lamb wasn’t paying attention to either shepherd or flock. Perhaps it stopped for some tasty red clover and, after spotting a field of pink vetch, had wandered over for a nibble of it. Maybe, like me, it followed a butterfly and, before the lamb knew what happened, it was all alone. It didn’t mean to stray; it just stopped following the flock and paying attention to the shepherd. Once on its own, the lamb was vulnerable to attack. Fortunately, the good shepherd went looking for it just as my family looked for me.
It’s incredibly easy to lose our way, not just in mazes and pastures, but in the complicated, bewildering, and often perilous world in which we live. Knowing that predators go after the lone sheep that wanders from the herd, our Shepherd has given us His flock—the people of His Church. Unfortunately, instead of morning glories or butterflies, we can get distracted by anything from busyness to boredom, success to defeat, or prosperity to poverty. We don’t mean to stray from the Shepherd’s flock but things like ambition, popularity, self-importance, doubt, worry, discontent, anger, guilt, or disappointment easily can sidetrack us. We start to wander and, before we know it, we’re lost and vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Fortunately, we don’t need a phone to call our Good Shepherd; a simple prayer is all it takes.
Staying connected with other people of faith—people who follow the Shepherd and will guide us when we’re lost, encourage us when we’re overwhelmed, and correct us when we make a wrong turn—is vital for our survival. As I discovered in the corn maze, it’s best to stay close to the people who have the map and know where they’re going! On the other hand, as members of His flock, it’s important to notice when one of His sheep goes missing.
After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. … My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. [John 10:4,16b,27 (NLT)]
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