I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. – Psalms 119:176 (NIV)
I have been lost before; lost in such a way that I had no hope of finding my way to safety on my own. Only the effort of someone else seeking me out and finding me brought me back to safety. I don’t remember the incident, but I have heard the story from my parents a number of times. It involved a grocery store, three other siblings keeping my mother’s attention and my own overzealous curiosity. My mom said when she found me, I was walking with one of the young ladies who worked at the store, looking for my family.
There are dozens of passages in scripture about sheep and many of them refer to them being lost. It seems that sheep are prone to wander, much like curious children in grocery stores. This is where the shepherd comes in; lost sheep need finding, and once found need watching. They are not independent or resourceful creatures, needing companionship, care, guidance and protection. I find that I am no less the child to God that I was to my mother in the grocery store. My curiosity draws me away from the flock to unsafe places, and it is only the shepherd’s patient searching that finds me and brings me back to the fold.
It is comforting to know the man after God’s own heart struggled with the same issue. The warrior poet was also a lost little lamb and his prayer in the passage above rings with hope. He fervently believed that his shepherd would seek him out and that he would recognize the shepherd’s voice when he called. That is the discipline I desperately need to strive after; an ear to hear my shepherd’s voice. I long to have the maturity and wisdom to hear His voice above all others and avoid the wandering altogether. I look forward in hope to the day that I am content to rest in His pasture, but that day is not yet here. Until then, I am grateful that my Shepherd knows me and searches me out when I stop listening to His voice.