There’s been this thing rolling around in my head recently. It’s a thought that has yet to really resolve but I really want to jot down what I have so far because I think it’s important...and God asked me to put it here instead of my journal.
In the story (in John I’m pretty sure) where Jesus is talking about how the sheep hear his voice and they follow him, he also says something to the effect that we (Christians) will ‘go in and come out and find pasture.’
It’s the in and out thing that has snagged on my gray matter. In and out of what? Well the sheepfold of course, but what does that represent and what the hell is a sheepfold anyway. Webster says it’ a shelter or pen for...wait for it...sheep. So it seems like he’s talking about our coming in and out of His shelter? Doesn’t the word talk about God’s peace being like a shelter? You know, the secret place and all of that.
The last few weeks have felt like I had stepped out of his peace in many ways, not like I was bad or anything, but there was stuff going on here and there that ruffled feathers or made me anxious or whatever. Anxiety always has a way of also making me feel more distant from God. Worship is more work, prayer seems hollow – you know what I’m talking about. And that has always made me sad. I don’t want to leave God’s presence – I like it there. I’m increasingly hungry for his spirit and his input and it bugs me when like takes me away from all of that.
Maybe that’s pretty normal. Maybe ‘going out’ is either necessary to keep us from getting flabby, or just part of the almost-but-not-quite life we lead until he returns...maybe both. The Final Quest tells the story of he Christian warrior who climbs a mountain to eventually find himself in a kind of new Eden. The tree of life is there, Jesus is there, the demons can’t get in...it’s paradise. And yet Jesus tells him after a while that he can’t stay there. As important as it was for him to reach this place, it’s at least as important that he return to the front – the battle rages on and he’s needed.
I’ve noticed something over the last few years as spiritual warfare becomes more and more normal in my life. Attacks that used to take me out for weeks at a time now roll off in days or even hours. It’s like when the enemy gets a goo shot in, my recovery time has become shorter and shorter. If the kind of frustration or depression that happens in such a case is like ‘going out’, I find that I’m far better equipped these days to get back in. If chasing hard after a man’s heart is the current mission, and all the risk and warfare that it entails is another kind of ‘going out,’ I find myself more able to get back in when I need to.
It’s like this sheepfold, now that I’ve found it (and come in by the door), is never more than a twinkling of my heart away. And so it seems to me today as if I’ve been going and coming fairly regularly in the last few years but always feeling pretty crummy about the going, like I’d failed somehow to find myself outside of that garden that always renews my spirit. But I think I see it differently now – like Jesus has removed one more of those guilt arrows from my back just by reminding me that going and coming should be part of the experience...and he will always be there to show me the pasture.