“The most natural way of treating people is to treat them like they treat us. If they are nice, we are nice. If they are not, we are not. BUT, maturity and improvement in any relationship calls for way more than that. It calls us to treat people better than they may be treating us.”- Dr. Henry Cloud
I posted this quote from Dr. Henry Cloud on my facebook page. The responses I received do not surprise me. Each person being honest, wanting to do better but still experiencing deep pain caused by another person. Let me first say Dr. Henry Cloud’s last sentence is a challenge and a so very necessary even more so in our world today. I’d like to share my story with you – I will try my best to to keep it short and to the point but you know how I can….well, here’s my story.
I could begin by going back to my childhood but it’s not necessary to give numerous examples of how this or that one treated him, her, or me. Wow, that’s a tongue twister. I’d like to start where I really began learning my role in reacting or responding to being mistreated by another. I think a lot of our maturity growth happens in our 40’s and it was in October that I felt drawn to read Psalm 23. Like most of you, Psalm 23 is something we memorized in Sunday School or it’s such a familiar scripture that I read it with ease. For several days in a row, I read Psalm 23. Then the sentences, one by one, started to jump out to me. Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Soul searching and life truths began to grow within my heart.
While I knew King David, who wrote the Psalm, was a shepherd during his boyhood years, I really didn’t grasp the meaning of the Psalm. Over the next 6 month’s I began to read all I could about being a shepherd during those days and there was so much to learn! I took pages of notes and was immersed in David’s life – from shepherd boy, a musician playing the harp, to a giant slayer, becoming a King- all the while reading of his highs and lows in his life. You know, the good, the bad, the ugly. God said “David was a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:4) While so many of us think how could this be with the sin we read from David’s life? I began learning how God saw David’s heart. His struggle between the human desire and the spiritual desire was real. God knew David’s heart. He knew the struggle was real and he also knew it was in David’s heart to follow and honor Him. How did God teach David? He reminded David of his shepherding days and as David began to pen the words of Psalm 23, we get a wonderful glimpse into their intimate relationship.
My relationship with God began to grow deeper and it was the beginning of a wonderful intimate relationship that I now share with Him, too. This is what happened. I began to see myself as a sheep in His pasture and He was the Shepherd. As I continued to learn through these months of my life, He was teaching me to apply the truth’s of His Shepherding and me following as His sheep. (If you read other writings on here on my blog, I shared about Psalm 23 verse by verse.) Wow, as my mind thinks back to that time, I’m in awe how protective my Shepherd was for me. He guarded my heart when I didn’t realize it needed guarded. His voice called me to His presence when other voices were getting loud around me. He pointed me to the mountain top when the valley seemed so deep and reminded me that His goodness and mercy would follow me. Many times He anointed my head with oil as He cared for me. He had me ‘pass under His rod’ as He corrected me, taught me, and guided me with His staff in the way I should go. He lead me through Life’s valley and when the waves of hurt, gossip, discord, and betrayal came, He’d lift me up and hold me close to Him. I felt safe, protective, and I knew He’d take care of me and of my family because ‘The Lord (He) is my Shepherd. I lacked for nothing” because my heart was now in tuned with the Shepherd. My Shepherd.
So what was going on? I was in the pasture with other sheep. At the time this 6 month’s began, I had no idea some of the other sheep had their minds set differently. I was sensing that something was amiss there in the fold but I was focused on others – ewes, rams and the lambs along with the Shepherd’s helper (Pastor). There was an undercurrent that was happening. So about early March that following year, I came into the sheep’s fold (the church) and overheard some ewes talking rather nasty about me. I looked into the nursery room where they were standing and a sadness, a betrayal washed over me like I’d never felt before. I turned to walk back out to my car feeling so hurt and devastated but the voice of my Shepherd called to me – He asked me to “come to Him”. I did. I went back, walked passed the nursery door and went into the sanctuary with my family. They sat down and I went to the piano to play. Just as with David playing the harp, God used the music to soothe my soul at that very moment. It was personal. It was intimate and although it was in deep hurt and pain, I was not alone for my Shepherd was with me.
Through that valley in my life, I lost my best friend. But as the hymn says “What a Friend we have in Jesus”
- What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
- Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
God took this time in my life, as David says in verses 2-4, to spend time with my Shepherd in the green pasture and beside the still waters. Over the next few month’s He restored my soul and began to lead me in new path’s for His name’s sake. See, some of what I was learning during this time was that although others wanted to make everything ‘all about me’, they were really hurting God’s name, causing Him pain and they were sowing discord in His pasture. I learned that He really did know what I was going through. That His Son, Jesus Christ had experienced so much more and yet He loved. He forgave. He showed mercy and offered grace. And with that, He taught me the difference (an old life lesson that I had to relearn) between reacting to those who were causing the pain and responding to the pain. Let me assure you, that was a hard perspective for me to swallow. My birthday is in April and my nature is taking the bull by the horns. You know, reacting! In responding, I needed to spend more time with the Shepherd so as not to cause injury to another sheep or even myself. I did just that. Did I experience questions of why, further frustrations, more tears from the hurt, and certainly the injustice I was seeing played out? Of course! But each time the Shepherd’s voice was a bit clearer and I had learned to trust Him. This was His responsibility. Even though I didn’t see the love and fruit in the lives of these people, they were other sheep. I know because we had spent time together frolicking and playing, worshipping and praying. All together in the same pasture (church). Somehow the predator had snuck in where there was a gap in the pasture boundaries. That predator choose to isolate a sheep and feed them with insecurities bringing doubt and misgiving to their lives. Other sheep joined them with similar symptoms and together they somehow look at me (and others) as the enemy, not as another sheep in the same fold. That predator was clothed in sheep clothing and even I was caught unaware. Yet, God wasn’t! He had begun leading me down a path for restoration even before I would need it. That’s the faithful Shepherd He is.
I’ll never forget how things fell apart and life would never be the same for me or my family. What would become of us, of other sheep that were scattered? For a couple of years it was most difficult but each time the wound would break open a bit, God was there to place His ointment of peace, love, and grace on the hurt. So many times He showered His loving care bringing me rest and joy. I wouldn’t trade those days of healing for anything. While the pain was raw, God’s love and care was tender and compassionate. It was through His care for me that one day I knew He was asking me to be a part of another flock and I just knew I couldn’t do it. There was no way I was going to put myself out there to become a target again. He took me aside, guided me with His staff and reminded me of Who I belonged to. He reminded me that I was an Ewe and He needed my heart in helping other sheep, especially the little lambs who were just learning and growing themselves. That day, to give you a picture, as I began walking Life’s Path with my Shepherd it seem such a great distance. I didn’t know if I could do it. As we began walking and talking, I began noticing to the left and to the right there were several folds of sheep. Some seemed hurt and in need of great attention while others were skipping and playing. Some were just walking in circles forming a rut while others were playing king on the mountain. Some were older and many much younger. All of a sudden we were at the gate and I was feeling very safe with just the Shepherd and me. The gate at the end of this long pathway also served as a gate to a new sheep fold. It was then I realized all that I had just seen represented God’s pasture. Just because each fold was different and at some extreme than another, didn’t mean they weren’t all sheep. I knew they were all there, under my Shepherd’s wonderful sufficient care. It was then I knew He loved them just like He loved me! I knew before I walked through that gate, I could forgive. I didn’t want them to feel the pain and hurt I had felt from them. I didn’t want revenge because I was healed. While I was leaving them ‘behind’ so to speak, I knew our path’s would cross another day. My confidence in the Shepherd was that I didn’t need to worry about that. His presence was all that I wouldn’t be needing. The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing. Talk about trust! I knew His faithfulness. I knew His protection, His love, His care. He opened the gate and I took a forward step. Not sure of where I was going but sure of Who was with me. I haven’t looked back but have keep my eyes on Him.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the Light of His glory and grace.” That’s chorus I’ve sung many times when the cares became heavy and the tears began to flow as I grieved the loss I felt deep within. The glory of His grace in my life humbles me and creates in me a deeper desire to stay walking close to the Shepherd.
Just let me add another perspective here. There is a season, a time when the rams get into head butting. So it is with us. The point we need to remember from the Psalm is simple: “Thou anoints my head with oil.” Just as His oil is salve in our healing, it also serves to treat the parasites, the flies, and when placed on the ram horns, it causes them to slip instead of injuring the rams as they butt heads. You can read about that in my Psalm 23 posts! Nevertheless, the Shepherd is with them and will be faithful to take care of them. It’s not our job. We’re just another sheep, learning and growing! We don’t see situations from the Shepherd’s view now, do we? If I had chosen to react, to run away from the Shepherd, and to lash out at those who were causing injury – what path would I be on today? What would my lambs (our children) have seen and learned from me? What about other sheep that were watching and feeling pain because they too were effected? And as His sheep, I’m sure there are others I have wounded by my words or my actions even when that wasn’t my intent. I’ve learned how much of our personality traits, our upbringing, our gifts and abilities effect other sheep in the pasture. To be sure, not one of us can justify hurting another, lashing out wanting things our way, or seek ways to chase another sheep from the safety of the fold. Oh that we would all be much more observant and be alert for the predators that slip through the fence seeking to kill, destroy and rob relationships first and foremost!
I hope to write more soon but I want to tell you, it wasn’t always easy. I’m strong in my faith but in everyone of us there’s a child’s heart. A heart that feels pain, loss, confusion, and still has questions unanswered. I now longer have the need to “go there” when I compare those emotions to how I feel under the care of my Shepherd. Faith brings Hope and Hope teaches us to Trust. I’m confident in my relationship with God because I’ve learned Who He is through reading the Bible and experiencing His presence in my life. My trust in Him knows He’s taking care of His sheep and He will go to whatever length to show them His love and care. What more could I need?