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Follow your Shepherd

From the February 6, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

When growing up, I frequently visited my grandmother, and we would often read from the Bible. Psalm 23 was one of our favorites. She would tell me that God guides and protects us just as a shepherd does his sheep. When a shepherd leads his sheep to green pastures and still waters, it is like God guiding us to all that is good and peaceful. Then Grandmother would put her arms around me and tell me that I could always feel loved and protected in God’s care. He is always there to guide us even in difficult situations.

The lessons I learned about God’s shepherding from my grandmother have helped me many times. One of them occurred a number of years ago when I found myself living alone after my children were grown and married. I didn’t know what to do and became very depressed. Then one day I recalled a verse from Psalms that says: “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (145:18). I knew I could count on God to hear my prayer. 

Then I remembered an experience I had while on vacation, which involved a shepherd and sheep. One bright, sunny morning I was visiting a restored colonial village in the eastern United States. As I walked along a path in the village, I noticed a white picket fence with a flock of sheep inside. Some visitors were trying to coax the sheep over to the fence, and I hurried to join them. But to my amazement the sheep were paying no attention. Midst all the commotion they were quietly resting. Then all of a sudden they jumped up and ran eagerly toward the fence. Down the path came a shepherd whistling a little tune. The sheep heard her whistle and responded quickly. She opened the gate and gently led them to the green in the middle of the village. All the noise and confusion going on did not keep the sheep from hearing and following their shepherd. 

As I thought about that event, I was wondering why I didn’t hear my Shepherd’s, God’s, voice. Could it be that I wasn’t tuned in? Right then I decided to stop harboring thoughts of self-pity and fear of the future. I would be tuned in to God’s voice. I thought of another verse from Psalms: “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalms 100:3). I knew I must keep focused on the fact that God made me and loved me. So I reasoned this way: God is the only Mind or intelligence, and this infinite Mind, God, is giving me—His beloved child—the ability to hear His commands; to keep tuned in to His voice. God is all-powerful, so there is no power that could separate me from His love and care. He is my Shepherd and is leading me to green pastures and still waters. I had the ability to listen and hear His directions and feel His loving arms encircling me.

In Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, Mary Baker Eddy made a profound statement about the infinite presence of God’s shepherding: “God is universal; confined to no spot, defined by no dogma, appropriated by no sect. Not more to one than to all, is God demonstrable as divine Life, Truth, and Love; and His people are they that reflect Him—that reflect Love. Again, this infinite Principle, with its universal manifestation, is all that really is or can be; hence God is our Shepherd. He guards, guides, feeds, and folds the sheep of His pasture; and their ears are attuned to His call” (pp. 150–151). 

Right then I decided to tune in to my Shepherd’s voice, and I heard a message strong and clear, “Be patient, My child.” I felt the presence of Love, and the depressed thoughts left. I knew that being God’s patient child meant giving up all human will and surrendering to the divine will, which is always good. My happiness and security did not depend on persons or circumstances; it came from God. I was the child—God the Father-Mother directing my life in His infinite goodness. I must be willing to wait, be steadfast and trust that my Shepherd was leading me to a fulfilled and happy life. All I had to do was listen and follow. What a burden dropped off my shoulders!

I walked down the hillside happy with the expectancy of good. Within a short time opportunities opened up for me to help others learn more about God and His loving care. I felt blessed and needed.

A good shepherd always cares for his or her sheep, but I realized the sheep also have a responsibility to the shepherd. They must know the shepherd’s voice and then be obedient in following the directions given. Christ Jesus tells us to go into the closet and shut the door when we pray—close the door of our thoughts to what the mortal senses are saying and accept only the spiritual (see Matthew 6:6). God is Spirit, and He is also Mind, all intelligence, all wisdom. His Mind is revealing to us what is true. This truth gives us the ability to separate what is real from what isn’t. Selfish and depressed thoughts do not belong to the Almighty. His thoughts are not destructive or cruel. These beliefs are errors, and the willingness to reject them brings healing.

Our world seems to be in constant turmoil. Scenes of terrorism, hatred, suffering, lack, and other tragedies are overwhelming at times. But we don’t have to accept them. God created His universe, including man, in perfect harmony. By healing sin, disease, and death, Christ Jesus proved and taught that the power of God is adequate to destroy all evil. He was always tuned in to his Shepherd’s voice. We can be, too. In the poem, “ ‘Feed My Sheep’ ” by Eddy, it says, “I will listen for Thy voice, / Lest my footsteps stray; / I will follow and rejoice / All the rugged way” (Poems, p. 14). We can all know God as our Shepherd, hear His voice, then follow His direction in our lives. There is only one fold—one Shepherd. So we are always safe, cared for, and loved forever.

Nancy Burtis is a Christian Science practitioner. She lives in Godfrey, Illinois.

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