Before beginning the BLOG I would like to welcome all the new comers to the Stainglasslense; in the past two weeks there have been several new “Followers” and it has been exciting. I write weekly seeking to understand and/or celebrate God’s presence in the world, thank-you for joining me for the journey. Also, I have already posted my weekly BLOG this week so it is unusual for me to post a second one. God has been pursuing me all day to put together this BLOG and post it. Someone out there must be in need of this message. Please know I haven’t edited or proof read this BLOG….it is coming to you raw and I hope it helps whomever is struggling….I know the struggle well.
This Sunday we at the Kemble-Sarawak, Zion-Keppel Pastoral Charge will be meeting for in-person worship on the side lawn of the Kemble-Sarawak Church. The scripture passages we will be reflecting on are John 10:1-10 and Psalm 23. In both passages we are reminded of a Good Shepherd who cares and tends to us each.
This Good Shepherd image has been one that used to carry me through difficult times. It was comforting to think that I was a mere sheep and Jesus, as an extension of God, was my Good Shepherd who cared for and protected me from all evil. As it is written, “Who can be against me if God is for me?” (Romans 8:31)
But then life happened. There came cancer, sudden deaths, I watched 3 of my best friends die horribly agonizing deaths and then the pandemic arrived. Days of isolation, un-measurable pain, suffering, and a worldwide death toll in the millions.
Where is the Good Shepherd then?
I learned that the bullies can win, with their lies and smear campaigns. I learned that the structure put in place by well-meaning and intelligent individuals to bring justice can be manipulated and used as a weapon. I learned that sometimes the truth is not believed while lies, gossip and posturing make the headlines.
Where is the Good Shepherd then?
I once sat with a cancer patient who reasoned that all her troubles happened during the split second that God blinked. The idea that our Good Shepherd actually saw all these terrible things about to happen and did nothing to stop them was too much for her, so instead, she reasoned that God must sometimes blink and in that split second anything can happen.
Well, I know the Good Shepherd. I am convinced of God’s existence, I have experienced too much to deny God does exist and I know that there is a life beyond this life. As a Chaplain, a minister and just a fellow sojourner on this earth I have seen, felt and experienced enough to know with certainly there is more then we can imagine.
So, how does one reconcile the knowledge of the existence of the Good Shepherd with the occurrence of horribly cruel and destructive events?
For me it melts down to what is written in Isaiah 55:8-9,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Can a sheep ever possibly understand the ways of the Shepherd? No.
Can we ever possibly understand the ways of God? No.
That is why knowing the Shepherd makes all the difference. To trust in God’s plan, to lean into God presence, to give all the pain, all the hurt, all the misunderstandings, all the times we cannot defend ourselves back to God and instead live in a childlike dependency, an innocent trust is, in my opinion, the only way we can travel this life without despair. It is the only way we can be a kind, loving, and wise presence. It is counter cultural to say, “Despite all the evidence, I trust in the Good Shepherd.” This kind of faith and trust is a radical and life altering way to spend our days.
It is the only way, I have found to inner peace and ironically, with this faith I have found a part of me open up to experience God every day in small almost unnoticeable ways. But before I could experience this presence I first had to give into trusting this Good Shepherd when trusting was the least logical thing to do.
May the tests and trials of this life deepen your faith and bring you closer to the un-explainable love of the Good Shepherd.
Rev. Heather McCarrel