Fear looks different at different stages of our lives. I can remember a time, as a young adult, when I was so wrought with fear and anxiety that it felt like it would swallow me up completely. This was when my faith became my lifeline. Though I had been raised in the church, I really was not active in my faith at that time, but the foundation that had been created in childhood led me back to God during my crisis, the only source I knew I could trust.
I would lie in bed at night and just pray, over and over, using all my willpower to keep my thoughts focused on God and from straying into the dark shadows that haunted me and called to me.
Sometimes I hear God’s response, not necessarily in a real voice, but in a phrase or a few words that he impresses upon my heart and my mind. During that time it was, “Safely in love.” I knew that God was holding me, safely in love. I pictured Jesus as the Shepherd, and I certainly felt like a helpless lamb, against the threats of anxiety.
God brought me through to the other side. I’ve praised his name since. He has been with me, guided me, loved me, every day in many different ways, but it’s been a long time since I thought of him as The Shepherd.
We recently took the boys to visit the graves of our loved ones. This statue there really impacted me and provided a great opportunity to explain Jesus as The Shepherd to my youngest, who was most interested in who this man was.
“You know him. It’s Jesus.”
“Jesus?” He asked.
“Yes. He is like a shepherd and we are like his lambs, look how he holds the little one, safely in love, and the one who stands beside him, where does he look?”
I continued to reflect on this imagery and the famous Psalm 23 that it calls to mind. “The Lord is my shepherd...Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”
And I realized that the shadows do not simply come from time to time in moments of great crisis. All of life IS the valley of the shadow of death that we must walk. And, as The Shepherd, Jesus gives us the greatest, boldest proclamation of all time, “I will fear no evil.”
What is impressive about this statement is that, it acknowledges there will be fear, there will be evil. It will rally every strategy and engage every tactic to try and scare us into submission, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will not fear it.
I think this statue has stayed with me because it represents two major touchpoints of my faith walk. I see myself as a young college student, trying to grapple with unbelievable family tragedy, while managing my own debilitating depression and anxiety, as the first lamb, held safely in love.
I see myself now as the other lamb, strong enough now to walk alongside Jesus, but you better believe I am never taking my eyes off of Him.
I have two young sons, ages six and four. From pregnancy and beyond, they have been mirroring back to me more than I ever could have dreamed of learning about myself and my own growth. As we grow together through this life, I hope to always mirror back to them the same inspiration, strength, and wonder they have shown me.