Our kids are learning about social graces. (It’s a very long journey.) Yesterday, when the eldest rang on the way home from school, he didn’t start with his usual abrupt, ‘Can I play out?’ Instead, he somewhat surprisingly said, ‘Hi mum. How was your day? What was the best thing about your day?’ (with the sounds of his friends laughing their heads off in the background). It worked, as he knew it would. I let him play out.
They both also try using terms of endearment. One of their favourites has been ‘Mummy-my-own’. ‘Mummy-my-own, could I just watch a little bit of TV/have one more biscuit/go on your computer?’ It’s not foolproof, but I have to confess I often fall for it.
I was reminded of their nickname for me when I recently came across these words of Jesus:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… (John 10.14)
It feels like there is surprising amount of confidence here in the ability of the sheep to know. To know the sound of the shepherd’s voice, to know the sounds of their own names on his lips.
It made me freshly aware of the openness of the gate in this image. Sometimes, I think, we can get the wrong idea that God wants to pen us in with a load of other sheep where we’d maybe feel safe, but cramped.
This picture is different. The sheep go out to find fresh grass and they come back in again. Because they trust the shepherd they are free to wander, and they know that the shepherd will fight for them to the death if a wolf comes along.
It is precisely because the sheep are free to wander, that they discover how trustworthy the shepherd is and how well they are known. How would they find out if they were locked up all the time?
The shepherd says to us: ‘Go out, come back in, find the good grass that feeds you. But listen out for the voice that knows you and loves you. Be ready to come home again.
* I don’t know what you think, but to me Keri Smith’s postcard here is about spending some time not just using our daily tick list of what we think we ‘ought’ to be doing with our time when she says ‘do the opposite of what you think you should’. I don’t think she’s talking about robbing the bank or beating up grannies. At least I hope not.