It was Sunday afternoon, and I was at home with nothing pressing on my mind or my schedule. So I was able to do one of my favorite things. I went outside and found a few of the most beautiful red roses in our yard and garden, picked them, and tied them together with a long piece of grass. Then I walked out to the life-sized cross in our field. It's still hard for me to just stand and look at it. The thoughts that flash through my mind as I gaze on that cross make it hard to keep from tears. So I laid the roses down at the foot of the cross and walked away as my mind cleared.
I climbed up into a tree in the same field where I could sit and see the cross. And I started really thinking.
I've been really bad lately about my regular quiet time with Jesus. It's the thing I'm most ashamed of, really. How can I make excuses or procrastinate to where I don't have time for my Savior? For Him who saved me and loves me and waits for me? I just can find any rational reason to not spend time with Him. And so, in the tree, I resolved to start anew, leaving my past sins at the cross with my bundle of roses.
But God, being that wise One He is, had something more in store for me; something that would give a final impact to the thoughts that had been going through my head.
As I jumped down from the tree, our twelve sheep happened to be entering the field. I called to them and sat down against the tree, holding out my hands to let them know I would pet and scratch them. They all stopped, looked at me, saw my outstretched hands, and thought. One by one, they turned and walked off into the field to eat. All but one.
Little Brother left the group of sheep walking away and instead came toward me tentatively. It's an unusual thing for a sheep to do something differently than everyone else, so I was worried that he would turn back to the group. But he didn't take his eyes off me. I kept my hands out and coaxed him with my voice as well. After a few slow steps, he started coming faster, and soon, in his anticipation of getting rubbed and pet, he was running to meet me.
And that's when the spiritual parallel hit me.
As Christians, we are sheep of His pasture. Just like our sheep, we didn't do anything to deserve being in God's pastures, but we're here anyway. Yet we often lose focus of what's really important. We accept the blessings of God without delving into the source of the blessings: God himself. We walk off and eat the grass He's given us without even stopping to let Him, our Shepherd, be with us.
It can be hard to step out from the group. It could be that no one around you is taking the time. It could be that your schedule seems too full. It could be any number of ridiculous, but somehow convincing excuses. But those who do what's hard are most rewarded.
Little Brother knew what was most important. He knew that he would have plenty of time to eat grass. He wasn't distracted by little things like food or what he thought he needed to get done. Instead, he ran to the one he knew loved him and wanted to be with him.
You know something interesting about Little Brother? He's one of our happiest sheep. He's content, outgoing, energetic, and bold. Why? Because he's not afraid. He knows his shepherd so well that he doesn't ever worry. He takes advantage of every opportunity he gets to be with his shepherd, and it pays off in a life more full of joy and peace than any other sheep in our flock.
But there was more for me to learn. As Little Brother came to me, I was happy that he wanted to be with me. But as I petted him, I couldn't help but look back at the other eleven sheep who hadn't come. And I felt sad. Really, truly sad. Almost hurt. I loved all of them, but only this one had taken the time to show me that he loved me back. And that sad feeling resonated through me as I realized that this is exactly what God feels for us, only in much greater proportion. He loves each and every one of us so much. But so many don't even stop to take a few minutes out of the day He's given them to be with Him.
When you feel God calling you to be with Him, remember our sheep. Remember where true joy security comes from. Remember the sadness in the heart of God when we act as if doing things for God is more important than actually knowing Him.
Make the time.