I remember when the invitation was coming. It was like a letter floating on the wind to get to me, making its way through valleys and over hills. I could feel something drawing close, but in the waiting I felt uneasy. I told my friends at the time that I felt an ache I could only describe as “homeless.” It had nothing to do with the natural, but I felt such an ache for deeper belonging, deeper safety that I had only ever attributed to Heaven. I was hungry for a “more” that seemed impossible. Those friends looked back at me through furrowed brows wondering WHAT in the world I was talking about. In that time, I would just drive around and around my city, sitting in random parking lots, wondering when that invitation would arrive and what it would say. I was hoping that Golden City of California would quench the feeling, but it only deepened the ache. January 2, 2016, he whispered, “I feel the same way. Come, make me a place that I may dwell.” Taken aback, I wondered what He meant, but before I could finish my thought, here came the Great Storyteller, crouching in front of me with His wonder-eyes to tell me a story. Now, let me look you in the eyes and relay the same:
“Once upon a time there was a Little Sheep who lived in a big pen. It was bigger than most of the other pens that she’d ever heard about. It was her special place of comfort and safety. She knew every one in that pen. She knew how to lead here. She knew what would happen and what was expected. Little Sheep knew the routine of when the Shepherd would come and when He would go. She spent her days eating the grass right in front of her, wondering if it was all she’d ever taste. Little Sheep knew every corner of that world.
Whenever Little Sheep got restless she would walk the perimeter of the pen, knowing that if she stayed inside she would be okay. She could do no wrong when there were safety bumpers in the form of gates. Her steps were calculated and this was allowed.
But then one day, as Little Sheep walked the perimeter of her pen she saw the door was open. Shocked she looked around and counted the other sheep. None had left. In fact, they didn’t even notice something was wrong. The door stayed open for days and Little Sheep felt herself drawn to The Door. Eventually, she gave up her walks around the pen and instead sat at the gate, staring into the Beyond where she had never before gone. On one of her days of waiting, an invitation came in the form of a Good Shepherd. He was out in the fields walking towards her with purpose. As soon as He got close enough, they locked eyes and a smile broke out over His face as He began to speak, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me. I have come not to just give you life, but life abundant.” Little Sheep stared in wide-eyed awe. He was all the seasons at once. He was her wind and waves and sunlight. His scent felt like safety while His presence felt like mystery. Such beauty. Such strength. With unwavering focus and passion He continued: “…even as the Father knows me and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. They will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one Shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life for the sheep so that I may take it again. No one has taken it from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, I have authority to take it up again…Do you also want to lay down your life? I won’t take it from you. It’s yours to give.” His words felt like a hook that pulled her beyond the gates. Little Sheep started to take those first steps into The Beyond. “I trust you with freedom. I trust you to choose Me in the midst of options.”
Little Sheep took a few tentative steps into the freedom of no fence, no rules. Little Sheep didn’t know what to do as she tottled out, looking at the endless fields and forests and lands beyond. She’d never had this much space. She never had this much permission. She kept constantly looking back at her little pen (well, NOW she realized it was little), and saw it was built with hybrid hands: ritual linked to logs of false safety and planks of religion). He called her attention back to Himself, ““I TRUST YOU WITH FREEDOM. DO YOU TRUST YOURSELF AS I TRUST YOU?” His Voice thundered without ever feeling stern. “You see little sheep, I trust you truly. You have lived your life looking for the boundaries. You look at Me before you make any move. Thank you for your desire to do good, but I desire that you would simply run free and trust the Spirit I put in you. Just listen to Me and heed my commands rather than always asking where the lines are drawn. I DRAW THE LINES. I am not a micromanager. I am the Gate. Know this little sheep, My eyes are ALWAYS on You. Roam the fields! Explore! Risk! Do! Go! If you stay connected, abiding with Me you can trust your choices. Your freedom only becomes bondage if you go through any other gate but ME. I’ll show it to you Little Sheep…if you start heading down an unsafe path. Come, we have a journey to take into deeper trust. There are pasture lands called Promise I want to take you to.“
Like all His stories, it was a parable for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. That moment is a memorial stone, sweet child of mine, of the day Mommy decided to leave what she thought she knew about the King and His Kingdom, to find the True King in the Wild, Wild, Wild. That was the day I learned you can be set free without living free. You can have life, but there’s no abundance. You can taste water without it coming from a River. I left for me, I left for you, Leo. I left that we can find a true home, in Christ, and not in our surroundings.
I left that all your days you’ll only know a Shepherd that smiles and a tone of voice that is perpetually kind. I left that you may know the cross wasn’t just about sin. I left that you may know eternal life is now. I left that you may know the kingdom is within and it is at hand. I left the systems, the “pens” of religious thinking, to come into a world where the boundaries only mean more freedom.
Abba, thank You for that invitation into Your Holy Wild. You are such a Good Shepherd. Thank you that deep inside you never let me trade my authenticity for “ministry.” Thank You for giving me the grace to hear Your Voice in the midst of so much inner noise. Thank You that now I am resting forever by still waters. I love how you called me a little sheep and now here I am, thriving in the Shepherd’s Tent as a Shulamite Bride! Take others on that journey. All reading these words. I so thank You for Your parables, and I ask that you grace every one with those same whispers on the wind right where they are. From heart to heart, may an unveiling occur deep in their beings of the “more” you have for them. In the name of my friend, Yeshua, Amen.