Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lost sheep

i listened to a sermon by one of my favorite pastors, tim keller, this morning. it was an interesting teaching on jesus's referral to us as sheep. when reading of myself as a sheep before, i pictured myself as a sweet, cuddly little lamb that jesus likes to hold and pet because i'm cute and sweet. this morning, i was given a new view of myself that lined up even more with the ultimate picture of redemption god has been been showing me over the past 8 or so years.

i spent most of my life trying to do better. i grew up in church and pretty much always knew in theory that i needed a savior, but really i thought i needed a savior to save me and get me into heaven and the rest of it was about doing better and trying to emulate jesus's perfect life. i was pretty good at being good. i'm a people pleaser by nature. i like approval and i like for other people to think i've got it together. it's why i understand kennedy so well and struggle to understand blakely sometimes. i like to cooperate and meet people's expectations. so my life looked good. the truth is that my life looked like a life surrendered to jesus, but my heart was a phariseeical mess. i thought others should have it together like i did. i was self-righteous and propped myself up above others, demanding that they act like i was acting. that's not to say that i've arrived now and grown out of that; it's just that the older i get, the more i see my sin, my need for a savior, and god's complete and total pursuit and redemption of his people.

i like when i'm given a new picture to point me towards god's redemption of my rebellious heart, and tim keller's reminder of us as sheep was a good picture of who i really am and the amazement of god's love despite it. here's what i learned about us as sheep:

when the bible calls us sheep and god our shepherd, it's a very well-meant insult. a sheep is a stupid animal. it loses its direction continually in a way that a cat or dog never does. and even when you find a lost sheep, it goes to and fro and won't follow you home, so when you find it you must seize it, throw it to the ground, tie its 4 legs together, throw it over your shoulder, and carry it home. that's the only way to save a lost sheep.

i love this picture of myself as a sheep. i like being insulted in this way. when i was the sweet, cuddly lamb, anyone would want to love me and rescue me. there was something in me that called for that. when i'm a rebellious, wayward, stupid animal, if i'm rescued it's because jesus just loved me that much. nothing in and of myself deserved the rescue. even in the ugliness of my sin, he wrestles me to the ground, throws me over his shoulder, and takes me home. i don't waddle over to him, rub up against his leg, and ask to be petted. my heart is rebellious. i'm not good. he is. and i constantly need to be rescued. like the sheep, i am completely and utterly lost and the shepherd must do everything for my salvation. i'm not a dog or cat who will willingly follow my master home. it wouldn't have helped me for god to send a great teacher who tells me how to live and gives me a great picture to emulate. it's not okay for me to just try and live like jesus. i need a savior. i need someone to do everything i should have done, who has to live the life i should have lived, and die the death i should have died to bring me all the way home. i'm the infinitely lost sheep, but i have an infinitely loving shepherd. my shepherd will do anything to bring me home, and he does do everything to bring me home.

in my old identity, i was a good person, and i took a lot of pleasure in that. it left me feeling good about myself, but left me feeling superior to those who couldn't perform as well as me. the more i see my new identity as being completely wretched, but completely loved in spite of that fact, the more i'm learning to love others and see myself as better than no one. do i do it perfectly? not even close. i don't even do it to my own husband or kids. if i did, i wouldn't demand performance out of others the way i do. but the more i see how very sheep-like i am, the more i am able to see the great love of my savior, and that love is slowly transforming my self-righteous, wayward heart. it's a slow process, but he promises in his grace to continually rescue me and take me all the way home.

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