“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~John 10:27
Sometimes I think that verse should read a little more like this:
“My sheep hear my voice, and they know it, but still they choose to ignore me and go their own way.”
Because the actual version makes it sound too easy. Like maybe the sheep didn’t hesitate to follow the Shepherd’s voice. I wonder how many people can actually say, “I listened, I followed, The End.” Because I’m ashamed to say that it doesn’t always look that way for me. In fact, most times there’s a struggle before I finally give in. Generally the way this works for me is: I hear Him, I argue, I prolong the inevitable, I make myself miserable, then I finally say, “Okay, God, You win.”
But that’s not the way Jesus tells it.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
It’s that simple. Or, it should be.
You know, I often resent sheep analogies, because if there is one thing I’ve learned from befriending a family of farmers, it’s this: sheep are stupid. Whenever Jesus starts comparing His followers to a bunch of sheep, the only thing that comes to my mind is the story my friends told of a whole herd of sheep walking single file down a train track until they all got wiped out. Every. Single. One of them.
Come on, God, I’m not that bad… Am I?
Can I make a confession here? Sometimes I’d rather not follow the Shepherd. Sometimes I’d rather do my own thing. Because sometimes what God asks of me is not what I would choose for myself. And sometimes His instructions don’t seem to make sense. And sometimes the path He leads me down is dark and scary and painful and no-really-you-would-not-believe-how-much-this-hurts hard.
And so I hesitate, like the silly sheep that I am, lingering a little longer in this place because I prefer it to the unknown journey that lies ahead. And I choose my own path. And I stay right between the lines, not even bothering to wonder what is making that strange whistling noise up ahead.
And you’d think I’d come to my senses when those before me start getting thrown from the tracks. You’d think the train barreling toward me might be enough to make me flee from my path. And sometimes it is. Sometimes that’s what it takes to send me running back to the Shepherd’s arms. But sometimes I’m prone to travel the path of destruction because that’s what happens to stupid sheep that wander off on their own.
But the sheep that follow even when they’d rather not…
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” ~John 10:27-28
I think those sheep have a much better ending, and I think it’s the ending I want for myself. So I’ll choose to follow. Even when I think I know better. Even when I’d rather stay behind or make my own way.
Because when I hear that voice, I know it is ultimately leading me into the place that is best for me. And why should I argue with that?