Sheep & Seas: A Lesson in Abundance

One of my goals this week was to get to bed at a decent hour (the mortal struggle of a chronic night owl with good intentions). It’s now midnight in Connecticut.* But I’m wide awake, and for good reason.

Whoever said the Spirit goes to bed at midnight, I beg to differ tonight.

(But if this is how it feels when He goes to bed, holy cow, I can’t wait til He wakes up in the morning.)

I was studying tonight in John 10 – the chapter where Christ discusses being the Good Shepherd with His disciples. I had been pointed in that direction by a Campfire Devotional email by Rend Collective (I love when I get Jesus emails in my inbox) that referenced John 10:10. The tagline of the email was “God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety.”

Wait.

What?

God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety.

I thought, you know, that’s a pretty mind-blowing idea.

God loves me enough to push me into rough waters, because that’s where you learn to sail properly. Sailing in calm waters is a breeze (midnight Meg has puns for days), but it’s in the middle of a storm, with thunder ringing in your ears and lightning leaving you blinded, salt water soaking your skin and darkness looming overhead that you learn not only who you are, but who He is.

And isn’t that what life’s about – learning who we are and who our Father is? Sailing through those rough waters straight on home to Him?

Back to John 10. Jesus has gathered His disciples around for what I imagine to be a bit of a fireside devotional just for them. Maybe they’re hunkering down for a lesson heavy in doctrine, a bit of fire and brimstone to warm them to repentance. Maybe they were just anticipating a bit of a Q&A with the Master. Who knows what they were anticipating?

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But Christ starts talking about shepherds and thieves. He tells them that those who enter by the gate are to be trusted, those who enter any other way are thieves and robbers, intent on harming the flock. Pretty straightforward. Sheep, He reminds those listening, follow the voice that they know, the voice of their shepherd, the one who guards the door and fends off the wolves and thieves.

The disciples are wondering why in the world He was telling them about the shepherding industry – they were a bunch of fishermen, lawyers, and a physician. What need had they to learn about sheepfolds and shepherds?

Thankfully, Christ is patient and willing to explain.

He is the Shepherd who gave His life for us – as a sacrifice to Heavenly Father in our behalf, and as a gift to us. He declared, “I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

He never said that the thieves and robbers wouldn’t come, but that the sheep that knew Him would not listen to those ill-intented strangers. That rather than any sheep be carried off, that the Shepherd would give His life in exchange. But he wasn’t about to mollycoddle His sheep – they wouldn’t grow and learn that way, if they were kept in a pen all the time. They’d go out into the countryside to graze and to ramble, with the promise that He’d be there when danger came.

He never said that it would be easy, but promised that He would be there. He never said that there would be no trial, no temptation. But He did say that His yoke was wide and His burden light (note that there’s still a burden to be carried). He said that He’d walk with us. He said He would speak so that we could hear His voice if we listened.

That gave me pause.

Do I know the voice of Christ well enough to hear Him amongst the voices of robbers and thieves? Do I hear the whisper of the Holy Ghost above the hum of society, the call of temptation, and the shouts meant to tear me down? Do I hear Him say “I love you” and “come, follow me” above the storm?

It’s easy to hear Him in the quiet, but can I hear Him when the winds howl and the waves rage?

I’ll be honest, I’ve work to do and a lot to learn.

Good thing that Christ is the Master teacher.

Christ, as he continues teaching, reminds His disciples that “the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; but I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Abundantly.

Life abundant.

Christ meant that He gave His life for us that we could live a life filled with joy and hope and light. So that we could repent and be cleansed. So that when we face trials, we never face them alone. So that when we are in the middle of that raging sea, we know exactly who our Captain is, who is at the helm, who is our Navigator.

It’s not about living a life that’s easy, it’s about living a life that’s full.

Full of experience, full of joy, full of learning, full of love, full of discipleship. But that also means that it’s full of pain and sorrow, full of mistakes, full of questions.

Those hard times are where we find out what we’re made of and exactly who made us.  It’s when we turn inward and reach upward to find that we are stronger than we thought, that our capacity is beyond our wildest dreams, and that we have purpose.

Abundant purpose.

And what’s incredible and amazing and awe-inspiring is that all of it, all the good and the bad, all the sweet and the sorrowful, all the pain and all the joy, it’s what propels us to our home port. It’s that abundance – every aspect and experience of it – that drives the wind into our sails, and it’s where we learn to become like Jesus Christ, where we learn to hear His voice above the roar of the seas. He’s not just some distant lighthouse that guides us, He’s the Captain that places His arm firmly about our shoulders as we man the wheel through waters of abundance.

Abundance is opening our eyes to see that the blessings we’ve been given far outweigh and outshine the trials that we might find in our path. Abundance is the heart-expanding gratitude that makes place for even more blessings. Abundance is the understanding that even though life isn’t perfect, someday we will be perfected. It is that stillness in the morning, that sound of jubilee and rejoicing in the evening, that tiredness that reaches into your bones that comes from a day full of seeing the hand of God. It is that energy and joy that flows into your soul because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the power that scrubs you clean and wraps you in the warmth of love and mercy.

It’s not stuff or things or worldly possessions.

It’s a state of being.

It’s about more than the seas or the sheep, it’s about the love of God running through our veins, about understanding who we are and who we’re meant to be. It’s about recognizing ourselves in the looking glass of eternity and knowing that life is precious and, as hard and gritty as it can be, that it’s beautiful and wonderful.

It’s about embracing all  of it, the fullness of it, and knowing that we’re better for it.

 

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*this post was written at midnight, but for the sake of people who read it, I waited to post it after a grueling editing session this afternoon. You’re welcome! I wouldn’t subject you to the poor grammar of Midnight Meg. xoxo

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