She toddles out of her room carrying a brown elephant by its trunk. “Good morning, Sunshine,” I greet her. We exchange hugs and slobbery kisses and tickled laughs.
Then I ask where her sister is.
“She won’t come out.”
I sigh. Here we go again. In the providence of God, I have two daughters the same age. One is healthy and attached. The other is not. The one climbs in my lap un-hindered and calls me in the night without hesitation. She knows what it is like to feel safe, to trust. To laugh free and share deep. To belong.
The other? Not so much. She is scarred. Unattached. She came to us after a very long and hard first year of life. She carries memories deep and is afraid to really trust. She is afraid to let go.
To her, safety is in controlling, not in running to us and throwing herself headlong upon us.
My two daughters have brought a richness to my understanding of God. Both daughters are fully mine. They both eat the same things, have the same resources, share the same last name. They share clothes, toys, and the same citizenship, despite their different genetic makeup and backgrounds and pasts. They both have all of me and my resources at their disposal.
The only difference is that one fully knows it and doesn’t doubt while the other isn’t so sure. She is plagued with doubt.
And I’ve asked it many times: Which daughter am I? One daughter has laid hold of all that has been freely given her and the other has not.
It does strike me then, after all the times I have done this. After all the mornings Little Bit has resisted and withdrawn and out-right refused. After all the times her doubt and distrust has put her in a bad spot and it’s upon me to coach her out, it finally dawns on me and I’m struck to my knees with the revelation: I am like the Shepherd.
For the Shepherd leaves the 99 healthy sheep in the fold to go after the single, solitary one who is lost.
I’m on my knees with the revelation and this ground is sacred because I see. I’ve been invited to enter into His very heart, to reach out the finger and touch His wounded side and BELIEVE.
Because I’ve truly been the wounded daughter, the lost sheep, the doubting Thomas.
I’m the black sheep on the outside looking in.
And He has appeared to me and given me two little lambs and has invited me to reach out and touch His side, feel His heart. To Experience. See. And Believe. Both daughters are fully His and this is how He shepherds His own.
Our Shepherd is One who goes after the wounded and sick, the needy one stuck in some pit on the backside of nowhere.
His intent is nothing short of “bringing in.” He will keep pursuing, keep reaching, keep leading…until each of His sheep are all safely brought in: healthy, attached, and full in His fold.
My sigh turns to a smile. As much as I’d love to cuddle with my healthy little lamb, I leave her sitting on the couch in order to bring in my lost one. “Little Bit,” I call to her from the foot of her bed. “Are you ready to get up?”
She doesn’t respond. She is rigid and her eyes glint at me hard. She isn’t budging.
“We are going to have breakfast in a little while and you are invited to join us.”
She starts to cry. She has placed herself in a predicament, you see. She wants breakfast. But she doesn’t want to reach out. She has decided she doesn’t too much care for the offer we’ve made her, to be part of the family, to belong. She doesn’t want that part. She wants to stay stuck, remain the victim.
The truth is sordid sometimes: being a victim is easier than embracing grace.
And I see it all over my own life. Moments dotting my day, impurities pocking a life, times where I don’t want to stretch into the grace offered me. I want something easier. I want to live close fisted, demanding change from others, from life itself, instead of embracing the change God gently prompts within.
The ugly truth is that I don’t want the challenge of grace. So I stay stuck.
But hunger for that breakfast table has a way of doing it’s work. And the Shepherd has a way of making us desperate hungry for Grace.
I lean against the bunk beds shared by my lambs. I look at Little Bit. She wants control; I give it. “Alright, just come on out when you are ready.”
I leave the room and wait. One of two things will happen. I know because we have done this little routine hundreds of times. She will either start screaming, hoping to elicit a response from me… another of her attempts at controlling me; or she will slowly inch her way out of bed, take baby steps towards the door, and finally make a very reserved, staunch, proud appearance.
She does neither.
This time, I hear her voice amidst the cries, the tears. “Momma, I need help!“
I run. I reach her side and lift her up and tell her I am right there and that is what I’m here for, to help her and that I will always help her when she asks.
And in my own words, I hear the Shepherd’s voice. He speaks to me the very words I speak to her.
“That’s the promise I’ve made you,” I whisper into her tear soaked hair. “And I will always keep it. Always.”
I think of the Shepherd who made a covenant with us with His very own blood and how He promises to never leave us or forsake us and to always be faithful to us because He cannot deny His nature. Even when we can’t help ourselves, when we can’t reach out and when we flounder in doubt, when we want grace but don’t have the strength to embrace it, all we need do is call out and He is there. He will bring us in.
I lift up my Little Bit and soothe her tears and carry her on the hip. I bring her in to the fold.
We join the rest of the family at the breakfast table.
Little Bit takes a shuddering breath as I lower her into her chair. I trumpet like a victor: “Let’s eat!”
And all hands reach out, a circle of fists grabbing grace… lavish grace broken and poured out.
The family is complete and we’ve all come in and in the quiet pastures of the soul, I feel the Shepherd smiling. Grace has won.
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