*The following first section of this post is an excerpt from another post from a couple of years ago (You can read part 1 here and part 2 here). However to further illustrate the point of this post, I have included this excerpt at the beginning. (Photo by iStockphoto/ilbusca)*
Sheep are the most frequently mentioned animal in the Bible, believe it or not, and for good reason. The more one gets to know sheep, the more one can realize how much we humans relate to them. The bottom line is this: Sheep need not just a shepherd, but a very good one. Without a good shepherd they eventually die, often because of not-so-smart decisions, and often slowly and painfully. They are not the brightest of animals on their own and can be very impulsive. Also fear can cause devastation to a flock because they all panic and often get into more trouble as a result.
Sheep need food, freedom from pests, freedom from friction (conflict), and freedom from fear in order to be able to lie down and rest peacefully. It is completely up to the shepherd to see that these needs be met in order for his flock to thrive. This takes constant and consistent attention and care on the shepherd’s part. The sheep trust him and look to him for help. When they are warned of danger, they group together to help protect each other and trust that their good shepherd is on his way.
The good shepherd helps them to have everything they need. They can lie down and rest because they are satisfied. They are lead by waters that are good for drinking because their shepherd cares for them.
He helps them when they fall over – which can very quickly be deadly for a sheep because they literally cannot pick themselves up again. He restores them to health and watches to be ready to help them again.
He leads them down good paths, and he is known as a good shepherd as a result of his care for his sheep. When there is trouble, he protects them and guides them with his rod and staff – which also can be used as a weapon to defeat predators.
He goes ahead of his flock to prepare the fields where they will graze, making sure no deadly weeds or parasites are there. He pours an oil mixture on their heads to protect them from irritating and deadly parasites and pests that can devastate a sheep and even the whole flock – sheep can be so irritated by a pest that they have been known to throw themselves off of a cliff just to get relief not realizing that it also will lead to their death.
And when the year comes to a close, the sheep are lead back home to rest with their shepherd until the next journey begins.
Does all of this sound familiar at all?
Psalm 23: A psalm of David.
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.
David, King of Israel, was a shepherd. He fully understood these words and how they related to his Jehovah Raah (translates to The Lord, my shepherd). This psalm literally covers a year in the life of a shepherd and his flock! David recognized that the LORD was his Good Shepherd, and that He could be trusted completely.
The Mother Sheep: Leading, Peace, Insight, and Encouragement
This is great imagery, but even better is how it relates to us as mothers. Isaiah 40:11
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (NASB)
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (ESV)
If there is one thing I have felt I needed most from the Lord while being a mother it is His leading. There are so many times when I realize that I really need Him to show me which way to go, what to say, how to discipline, and the answers to many “why” questions I have at the moment regarding my children. Without His leading, I could get lost in the sea of opinions (which are often very freely offered) and not know the peace He gives to those He leads by still waters…
Also, He gathers the lambs in His arms. He takes care of my sheep as He is leading me to take care of them with Him. What love this shows. What peace it offers.
This peace is something that is not always easy to remember. Motherhood gets tough, and sometimes we get tired and cranky and feel discouraged and fearful and overwhelmed. Expectations are not met, there is more left on the long list of to-do’s, and things don’t always go as we have planned.
But His peace is there. He meets us where we are and comes to the rescue to lead, comfort, and restore us to His peace again.
He helps us to know our sheep. He gives insight and understanding where otherwise just bewilderment would be. I remember many times when my children were babies, and I wouldn’t know what to do. “Lord, she’s crying, but does she really need me right now or is she just getting settled before going to sleep?” “Lord, she keeps waking up early from naps. What is going on?” “Is she ready to eat solids, yet?” “Should I be concerned that she isn’t walking, yet?” He always brought the answers and helped us know what to do. It wasn’t always easy, but He never left us alone.
Just recently I felt that my middle child was struggling. I wasn’t sure exactly why, but as I sought the Lord He gave me the idea to read with her, and only her, in her bed right before naptime. This was some quality alone time she needed with me, but didn’t know how to articulate. Prior to this she had a hard time taking a nap (because her older sister had stopped taking them and was no longer in the room with her during naptime). After we started this special time, she is ready to turn over and go to sleep filled up with mommy time. What a blessing to have a God who knows His sheep and can tell the mommy sheep what is going on and give her the ideas she needs to address it.
With this has come a lesson: Seek Me first. There are so many other places to go, but none of those places have the true insight and truth I need for my sheep. When I find myself asking, “What is going on?” or “What do I do?” I try to always direct those questions directly to Him, my Good Shepherd. Only He can answer accurately.
What encouragement He brings to the mother sheep who is worn out and sometimes lost in fear, doubt, weariness, or exhaustion. His help continues to pick her back up again and get her moving in the right direction.
When I feel like this, I think of how a sheep can easily fall over and not be able to get back up on her own. When the shepherd finds her he not only picks her up and sets her on her feet, but sometimes he even has to rub her legs to get the blood flowing properly again or even carry her for a bit until her brain gets re-oriented. I know He has done this to me time and time again. He won’t stop either.
This encouragement can come in little moments like when my oldest daughter, who is strong willed and requires quite a bit of discipline, says something like, “Mommy, I’m really glad you teach us about Jesus and that you love us so much. I have a good mommy.” It had been a rough day, and yeah, I needed that. Or when my middle daughter out of nowhere says, “Mommy, I just love you.” Or when my youngest runs away from me instead of letting me put a new diaper on her, and I can hear her unable to contain her laughter as she hides behind the rocking chair in her bedroom.
Motherhood involves such sacrifice. There are so many times when the Lord has reminded me to put down what I want and serve my sheep. Of course He also wants to have that special time with me when He is filling me up and tending to me (because if I don’t take care of myself, I will not be great at taking care of others), but He nudges me to remember what is most important. This is a daily battle because there is much to distract. However He understands sacrifice more than anyone:
He not only was willing to forever take care of His sheep as their Good Shepherd, but He also temporarily became a sheep Himself in order to pay the penalty for our sins. “…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter…he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:7,12).
Yeah, motherhood gets hard. But the rewards and the joys are so much greater and so worth every bit of effort, of days without a shower, of times when we really would rather be at the grocery store all alone, and moments of doubt when we feel like we just can’t do it. He is enough. We are working on His behalf as we care for the little sheep He places in our arms, and He is there for everything we need.
“For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.” (Psalm 63:7 NASB)
As I have been walking through this journey of motherhood, I have found Him to be completely faithful. He has always provided, always guided, and always tended to us as a truly Good Shepherd.
I know you, too, will experience this as He walks with you and your little lamb(s). Thank You, Lord!