"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers."
Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
- The Gospel According to John 10:1-10
Who do I follow? What voice do I recognize? What distinctive sound can elicit my obedience?
In Jesus' time, this was a powerful illustration. Everyone knew that sheep were raised from their very first days to respond to the unique call and command of the master that guarded and provided for them.
Alas, those days are long gone and the details of this illustration - sheep, pastures, gates, gatekeepers and shepherds - are possibly lost in a world consumed with electronic mail, gasoline-powered motorcars, portable electronic devices, and moving pictures (or email, cars, iPhones and movies for those below my age). Yet, those initial questions remain with me. Who do I follow? To whom do I respond?
It strikes me that the forces from within dictate a lot of this. What drives me? How do I define my life? What does success look like? Where do I turn for affirmation? The Henri Nouwen piece that Sister Chris shared with me over two years ago is so helpful. Nouwen begins by asking, “Who is this person that lives this little life?” Then, after listing the two most common subconscious answers - I am what I have or I am what others say about me - he says:
What I want you to hear is....Jesus’ whole message is saying you are not what you have, nor what people say about you even when that’s important and even though it makes you suffer and even though it makes you happy, that is not who you are. I come, Jesus says, to reveal to you who you truly are. And who are you? You are a child of God. You are the one who I call my child. (Now, child doesn’t mean little child, child means son or daughter.) You are my son, you are my daughter.
- Henri Nouwen, in a lecture entitled, "Who are We?: Exploring our Christian Identity"Do I follow someone or something that is fleeting and cares nothing about my life? Or, do I recognize the sound of the voice of the one who calls me child and loves me like family. Because I am. You and I are children of the Great Shepherd. Grace and Peace, Scott