Peter spoke last weekend on asking God to heal the places in our minds where we might believe untruths about God. He used a story of a woman honestly admitting that when she thought about Jesus he was across a wide canyon with his face turned away from her. Her counselor took her through a process of working with the image and helping her find healing as she took the truth she knew to be true in her head and apply it to the image. She received much healing through the process and Peter encouraged us to admit our own realities and questions about God to ourselves so that we can understand them more fully and allow God to step into them and bring healing.
As I sat yesterday with my questions and a desire to establish some direction for this year I came up with my theme word for the year "CENTERED" - I know that the place I am in my recovery is being stalled by my body image, not fully understanding and embracing what it means to be a woman and my fears about these things.
I have also been trying to find a theme verse for this year. Peter challenged us the first Sunday in January to find one to grow into this year. I remembered that he had the power point from this teaching on the website and I clicked on it to remind myself of the verses he had suggested as a jumping off point.
I had remembered one that resonated with me, but I hadn't taken good notes that day and wanted to find it. It was John 10:10 -
The Message - "A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of."
NASB - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
I decided that it would be my theme verse for this year. It seemed to go hand-in-hand with my theme word "CENTERED". I decided to spend some time reading the whole of John 10 so that I could see if anything helped me apply this more largely to my life.
The context is of a story Jesus is telling to the Pharisees about caring for his sheep - hearing God's voice, knowing the difference between the thief and the shepherd. I sat with these verses and let them wash over me. I asked God to give me a picture of the way I truly believe in my heart about being a sheep and about how I am shepherded.
God began to remind me of some my own real-life experiences with sheep.
You see our family had a short stint in shepherding. One of the elders from our church was a sheep farmer and as we lived in the country and had some outbuildings we thought it would be romantic to have two bouncy little sheep grazing in our field. My sister Denise and I each got to pick out one. Instantly they went from cute little fluffy animals to stinky smelling, lanolin covered, pee machines that we had to hold on our laps all the way home. Our farming foray was short lived indeed. My father bore the brunt of our rash decision. Each day he would go to the door of the shed, call for them and they would come and wait while he leashed them together and they would wander the fields "mowing our grass".
That was until we went on vacation. My Uncle Bud became the fill-in shepherd for the week and those sheep did not know his voice and they did not follow him. In a very sheep-like manner they did not come to the door and they did not know him. I'm sure in his frustration he had a schedule to keep and found that dragging the sheep outside for their own good was far better for them than leaving them locked in their shed all day.
We returned to find that our father's well trained sheep were now afraid of any shepherds voice. Instead of coming to the door and waiting to be leashed together they bolted out the door and began to run for their lives. I can remember my mother giggling at the kitchen window. It soon was loud enough that it called my sister and I to come investigate. I have vivid memories of the three of us standing at the window and laughing ourselves silly.
My father on the other hand was becoming increasingly hostile toward those cute, bounding balls of fluff. I can still see him in his suit, getting later and later for work as he tried to coerce those sheep into letting him get close enough to tie them up. He would slowly inch closer and closer. Each step allowed by the sheep until BOING, BOING, BOING... Off they'd prance. This choreographed ballet kept repeating itself over and over.
My father was raised on a farm and has grown up as a hunting man. I know that the thought of finding his shotgun to end this dance went through his mind that morning. But I know he knew we were there watching "our pets" get the better of him. In one brilliant move my father walked as close to one as he was allowed and got down on all fours and stayed stock still. The curiosity of the sheep was so profound that it wandered over to him and he lunged and captured it, grabbing it around it's middle in a great big bear hug. The second sheep was just as curious and soon they were both tethered and back to their normal grazing.
The hysterics in the kitchen had reached a fevered pitch. But it only took one look, one finger pointed and a "not another word" to quiet us down to shoulder-shaking, muffled snorts. His suit and clothes were covered in stinky lanolin and his hands and knees dirty from the grass. He was so late for his commute to the office and yet after he changed he was able to find the humor in his morning promenade.
I was brought back to the present as I sat in my living room and allowed that story to work it's way into my theology. What a beautiful picture I was given of a father's faithful love, a shepherd's persistent care and a sheep's knowing intuition. So many connections fired through my brain I can hardly remember them all as I type. How many times have I felt like that sheep dragged by someone who I didn't really trust away from the safety of my shed. The shepherd down on all fours to show the sheep that she is safe. And the beauty of the abundant life the shepherd wants for the sheep.
"I have come that they might have life, more abundant life than they can imagine."