What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? Luke 15:4
For the last two years our family has spent Spring Break at Possum Kingdom Lake near Mineral Wells, TX. It’s a nice change from the flat, concrete covered landscape of Dallas. There’s a steep and treacherous walk from the backdoor of the house down to the lake. You have to carefully navigate your way through rocks, thorns, briers, spurs, mesquite trees and the like. Two years ago we brought our puppy, Scout, with us. Scout is a miniature schnauzer. He (absolutely) loved being out in the open with the ability to run wild. The only problem was that he would come back to the house covered in thorns and sand spurs after every trip down to the lake. Let me tell you, he hated it when we would pick the spurs out one by one. We couldn’t just leave it alone. The sand spurs would just work their way deeper into his fur, sometimes to the point that he couldn’t walk without whimpering. This past year we came up with a solution. Kendall bought some dog booties for Scout. As you would imagine, he hated the booties. Without much effort he was able to pull them off and we were back to picking out sand spurs again. He was back to snapping at us while we did it. We came up with a solution. If you are an expert dog owner then forgive us. We are not. We found some duct tape and taped the booties onto his feet. For obvious reasons, that didn’t work well either. We were at a crossroads. Scout desperately wanted to run on the rocks beside the lake. We were determined to keep him protected from the thorns and sand spurs. I did what any dog owner (lover) would do, I picked up Scout and carried him down the long, steep, rocky hill (cliff really) to the lake and then back up again. He didn’t love being carried but he loved being able to run. It was tiring to say the least and at times I just wanted to let him down and tell him to deal with the sand spurs himself.
One afternoon, as I was carrying Scout up the cliff, back to the house I began to think about shepherds, sheep, and repentance. That may sound strange, but I’m a preacher and preachers think about strange things sometimes. I’m fascinated by sheep–by how helpless they are–how dependent they are upon the shepherd. I began to think about how Scout was basically a sheep. He was definitely, helpless and dependent. I was like the Shepherd. Then it clicked. Jesus was providing me with a real life experience of the way he relates to me and I relate to Him. I’m the sheep and He’s the Shepherd. Like Scout, I’m a magnet for the thorns of life. I also have a poor memory–I don’t tend to learn from past experiences but continue to gravitate toward things that harm me. Over and over, I’ll pray and repent to Jesus. I’ll promise to do better, try harder, make better decisions, and stay away from danger. Over and over I break my promises and wind up covered in sand spurs so to speak. Over and over, Jesus, the Good Shepherd takes me in His arms, forgives my sin, and binds up my broken wounds. I tend to fear the day when Jesus will say: “I’ve had it with you. You are on your own.” But the Bible says that Jesus knows that “I’m prone to wander” and He loves me anyway. We are saved by grace and we are changed by grace. Repentance is a gift of God’s grace. Repentance is a 180 degree turn in the opposite direction. We think that means turning from being bad to being better (being good). That’s not it. Repentance is turning from our sin and turning to our Savior. Repentance is about learning just how utterly dependent we are upon Jesus in every area of life. Repentance is God’s way of leading us to deeper relationship and reliance upon our Shepherd. It’s a good thing not a guilt thing. Jesus desires for us to realize that there’s no better place to be than in the arms of the Good Shepherd.