An errand today took me on a road I haven’t traversed in 15 years. It also forced me to unearth memories that were shoved in the far recesses of my mind. Cobwebbed and dusty, they had been intentionally forgotten. Fifteen years ago was a painful time in my life. My parents were thick in a devastating public divorce and my Beaver Cleaver life lay in a million shattered pieces. In that moment, in my pain, I never would have believed God could redeem such a mess. That He could and would take something tragic and ugly and transform it into something useful and beautiful.
Fifteen years ago, my Good Shepherd came searching for me. Cast down, unable to right myself from the mess of my life, He rescued me. Picked me up. Held me close. Massaged life back into my feeble limbs. Cheered me on as I tried to find strength to walk again. Encouraged me as I stumbled and fumbled through the next steps. Laughed with me when I could finally run and skip again.
My Good Shepherd went before me through my valley. He knew the best route to the mountain tableland. He knew the risks, the dangers, and the perils that lay ahead of me. He knew my valley would be painful, difficult, and endurance-building. When I couldn’t walk, He carried me. When I was tired, He gave me strength. When I wanted to quit, He whispered encouragement to my soul. When I wanted to wallow in self-misery and bitterness, He taught me how to be grateful and learn to forgive.
My Good Shepherd staked His claim over my life. He stood openly in the presence my enemies and all that would harm or attack me in my weakened state, and He stood guard. He protected me. He loved me.
My Good Shepherd intentionally and meticulously poured His love, His care and His provision into my life. He met me in my shambles and poured His very life into mine. He redeemed my life from the pit. His love transformed me.
W. Phillip Keller in the last chapter of his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, reminds us that we should be proud to belong to Christ. “How glad we should be to look back and recall all the amazing ways in which He provided for our welfare. We should delight to describe, in detail, the hard experiences through which He brought us. And we should be eager and quick to tell of our confidence in Christ.”
When I look back on my life, I see my Good Shepherd picking up the pieces of my former life. I see Him throwing out the pieces that are no longer useful or functional and that don’t fit with His plan. I see Him fixing the pieces that are broken, creatively repairing and repurposing pieces the world saw as disposable. I see my Good Shepherd’s love. His diligence. His patience and forgiveness. I see rugged valleys and glorious mountain tablelands. I remember following Him through autumn storms to the cozy place of rest and safety of the winter months. I remember times of giddy anticipation to break out of the place of rest and into the spring pastures. And woven throughout my life, I see my Good Shepherd’s faithfulness.
Today, as I drove down the road of forgotten memories, I didn’t feel pain. Miraculously I felt joy, happiness, and gratefulness for all my Good Shepherd has done in my life. I called my Dad and then my Mom and we rejoiced in the unorthodox way that God so often works.
I delight to describe in detail the hard experiences through which He has brought me, because that path has led me to a place of complete contentment in my Good Shepherd’s care. Come what may, be it valleys or mountaintops, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.