Distinct value

Daily Reading for April 14

It’s quite all right to be a sheep, so long as we pay attention and hear the shepherd’s voice. The essential, crucial point is this: the good shepherd knows the sheep. This is not just a matter of a head count; each is of distinct value.

I yearn to be known, and at the same time I fear it. Most of the time, we let ourselves be known by bits and pieces, and we know others in the same way. My husband of nearly half a century thinks that he knows me, my children are sure they have me figured out, my colleagues and students and friends also would claim that they know me. Foolishly, I think I know myself. Even as I want to be known, I want to be known on my own terms—a carefully constructed and edited version, not as a sheep who gets lost, falls off cliffs, and gets hung up in the brambles. Certainly not as a sheep who can’t find her own way.

To be known, fully known, is not possible in our human relationships, but it is the foundation of our relationship with Christ. To be known, fully known, is both painful and profoundly comforting. It is to accept the humble status of sheep, to let the masks and defenses drop away, and to let ourselves be carried on the shepherd’s shoulders and occasionally poked by his staff. It means sometimes to be thwarted—the edge of that cliff doesn’t look too dangerous, and I wasn’t going to wander very far, honest!— and sometimes to be shut in a pen. It means to listen for the shepherd’s voice and to rejoice that he knows which one I am, in this great, blundering, well-intentioned, sheepish flock.

From “Sheep” in Just Passing Through: Notes from a Sojourner by Margaret Guenther. Copyright © 2007. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org

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