David, who was a shepherd, knew what it was like to be shepherded by the Lord Himself. He wrote:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller writes that David “knew from firsthand experience that the lot in life of any particular sheep depended on the type of man who owned it. Some men were gentle, kind, intelligent, brave and selfless in their devotion to their flock.”
These sheep would greatly benefit from having a good shepherd, because “sheep do not just 'take care of themselves' as some might suppose. They require more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care.
It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways...our mass minds (or mob instincts), our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance.
Yet, despite these adverse characteristics, Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own and delights in caring for us.”
From Keller's personal experience as a shepherd, he knows that in order for sheep to lie down, four requirements must be met. The sheep must be free from
- all fear
- tensions within the flock
- aggravation from pests
And only the shepherd can provide release from these anxieties.
“Nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applied night and day.”
As we have been shepherding David and Daniel as our still relatively new sons these past 14 ½ months, I can see clear parallels with Keller's analogies. David has told us that the first fit he threw after he'd been in our home for just over an hour was because he didn't know how we were going to treat him. There was a real fear of the unknown and the possibility that this huge change in his life was going to be for the worse.
So he put his backpack on and screamed over and over again as loudly as he could at our front door that he wanted to go back home to the orphanage. We were finally able to calm him down. But we were all shaken by that experience and the countless fits that have followed, not knowing when they would come or how long they would last. We have seen both a receptivity in David's heart to joining our family and a resistance. It seems that overall though the desire to return to his familiar life at the orphanage has diminished greatly over the past year, and for that we are truly thankful.
God has been helping us to build a foundation of trust that can only come with time. But the question “Can I trust you?” still lingers, on both sides. Recently his 2nd grade teacher has shared with us some of her concerns about his behavior at school, and we've had talks with him at home about how his lying affects our ability to trust him. Last week he told me that he still sees himself as “bad” like he was when he was at the orphanage. I told him that he is a child of God, and he doesn't have to keep following that path now. But does he want to change and does he believe that God can help him?
How can Charly and I best shepherd and lead him along paths of righteousness?
“All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one each to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Keller writes, “And this we do deliberately, repeatedly, even to our own disadvantage. There is something almost terrifying about the destructive self-determination of a human being...
Just as sheep will blindly, habitually, stupidly follow one another along the same little trails until they become ruts that erode into gigantic gullies, so we humans cling to the same habits that we have seen ruin other lives...
We don't want to be led in the paths of righteousness.”
Out of all of our family relationships, David has shown the most resistance toward accepting me as his Mom. It has not been easy for me to face his rejection or natural for me to express unconditional love for him, a Love that never fails. I'm challenged by Jesus, who as the good shepherd, laid down his life for his sheep. Who as he hung on the cross, cried out to his Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” I have been encouraged that there has been real progress in my relationship and communication with David recently. And I am trusting that walls will continue to be torn down and bridges built.
Psalm 23 concludes with “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Keller says, “Actually, what is referred to by house is the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership of this particular shepherd that it has no wish to change whatever. ”
And that is our prayer as we shepherd David and Daniel, that they would desire to dwell in the family of the Lord forever. That they would be deeply satisfied with the flock to which they belong.
And that they would know and love and trust Jesus the good shepherd, who “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” and whose “sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3,4)