Most of us know the words of the 23rd Psalm. I learned it when I was a little girl. I still remember how nervous I was to have to say all those words out loud it to my Sunday School teacher so I could get a sticker that week. I was so shy, with adults especially. But, I really wanted that sticker so I did it. Memorizing something etches it in your heart. I wish I had a video of that moment. It was my first try at preaching.
Since that time I’ve said it over and over at funerals, in sermons, worship services and to myself. Strangely, in all that time, I never connected the 23rd Psalm with the idea that I was to be a sheep until I read the Jesus Calling November 17 devotional in 2013.
I’d read the same devotional words before that year, I guess I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet. That year, I was trying to pastor, control and lead in a hard situation. I was grieving, parenting and being treated for breast cancer. I’d just received bad news for people I loved. I was wondering how I was going to hold up for all of it. I was beginning to see some startling cracks in my own superwoman armor and then I read this in Jesus Calling, Be content to be a simple sheep.
It shocked me so much that I researched it. I wasn’t raised in the country. I didn’t know anything about sheep.
What I learned was that sheep are smart. They quickly learn to listen for the voice of their shepherd, not the shepherd for the flock next door, but their shepherd’s voice.
Sheep survive by following that familiar voice. They know their place.
They don’t second guess the master plan or try to figure out the best logistics of where they are going next. They listen and follow.
Psalm 23 is so reassuring if you read it as if you are just a simple sheep…
I will lead you into restful green pastures and guide you along the right paths. The shepherd restores my soul. And even though I walk through dark valleys, scary places, and face the shadow of death, my shepherd is with me. I will fear no evil. The shepherd comforts me and stays with me. My shepherd feeds me even in the presence of my enemies. My shepherd anoints me with oil to help my skin and keep pests away. I have more water than I need, in fact my water trough is overflowing. (Cindy’s paraphrase)
Our only job: Be a simple sheep.
If this pandemic has you worried; if the economy, the election or the holidays have you worried; if you face other challenges, here’s the word and image for today: Be a Simple Sheep.
When I catch myself in a downtime or a worry cycle that won’t stop, I just say two words to myself…SIMPLE SHEEP.
Even in these trying times, those two words can calm me right down.
It is as if our shepherd God knew a shy little Sunday School girl would later need to boil all those Psalm 23rd words down to two to survive and to anchor her soul. Simple sheep. Just be a simple sheep. Amen.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a simple sheep, a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and one on the way. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com to read her other blogs, hear sermons, see upcoming events, learn about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts or to sign up for her monthly Inner Circle emails. Sign up by November 30 to receive the December Top Ten List.