“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:1–4)
I love this passage and have spent a good deal of time here. But today I’m struck by the phrase “he goes on ahead of them.” It’s almost as if I’d never noticed it before, never given it my heart’s attention. Jesus goes ahead of us. That is so reassuring, and that is such a different view than the one with which I approach each day. Or better, it reveals to me the way that I see each day. Here’s what happens.
I connect with God in the morning in prayer and sometimes through reading of some sort. But then a shift occurs. Somewhere between prayer, and having breakfast, and getting the boys off to school, and getting to work myself, and beginning to answer e-mails and tackle projects, a subtle parting occurs. I don’t feel as though I am following Jesus going ahead of me. I just sort of take it for granted that I am blazing the trail. Until this morning I never would have put it into those words. But this passage makes me realize that I don’t see our relationship as God going on ahead of me. But I want to. Oh, how I want to. My heart is engaged. This is no intellectual exercise, but a living and immediate conversation with God through his Word.
Do you really, Jesus? Do you really go on ahead of me?
That is such a better view of God, a view where he is engaged with us and intimately involved in the world and in our lives. As I think about it now, I think I have been something of an unconscious Deist. God is there, but I’m doing my darnedest down here while he is sort of smiling down on me, not really engaged in the details. That view is not true of him, and it is an awful way to live. I think of George MacDonald’s wonderful insight:
If to myself—“God sometimes interferes”—
I said, my faith at once would be struck blind.
I see him all in all...
A love he is that watches and that hears. (Diary of an Old Soul)
I do believe this. Why don’t I believe it in the day-to-day events of my life? Maybe the issue goes more like this: I do believe Christ leads us, but I make no conscious effort to follow him in all the “in-between” times, where life is really being lived. The question is, will I follow God, as opposed to just going on my way into each day? That is the transition to a better life. To be asking him where he is headed and what he is doing throughout the day. So that while he is going on ahead of me, I am following.