|The Good Shepherd, detail from a window at The Sainte-Chappelle, Paris, 2013.|
I had just transferred from the middle school to the high school, and was asked to come up early in the summer to meet with some of my colleagues to discuss some curricular matters. But I had no one to watch my kids, so I brought them with me.
Of course, one of them wandered off while I was in another room for a couple of minutes. And I didn’t know the building. Practically no staff was there. It was a brutally hot day. So after making sure that there was no pool in which my child could drown, I began going all over the building looking high and low for my child, while my one colleague watched my other two kids.
It seemed to go on forever. I went around the building on the outside and on the inside, calling my child’s name. I was finally at the point where I was going to call the police. There was one hallway that I had already been in, and it was hot because the air conditioning was shut off in it. Surely she wouldn’t have gone in there—it was miserable. I called my child’s name… and heard a tiny, reedy noise. But I knew that voice. My child knew my voice—and I knew hers. She had gotten locked in at the end of the hallway and could not get out of the stairwell, and thankfully wasn’t strong enough to open the door to the outside, where there was construction and traffic and a quarry beyond the back fence.
When I finally got to my child, I asked her why she hadn’t answered me, and she said she hadn’t heard me because she was so busy calling my name. My much louder voice had cancelled hers out, but she kept calling me, because she knew I would not give up. And, oh, the relief once I had found her. She was my child. The next morning as I was praying the Daily Office, I was struck by this image in verse 7 of Psalm 95:
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice!
This Sunday, in our gospel reading of John 10:22-30, we will continue to hear Jesus describe his followers as sheep—last Sunday, Jesus told Peter three times to care for or feed Jesus’s sheep. This coming Sunday, “Shepherd Sunday,” we will be reminded that Jesus’s sheep know him and his voice. But this recognition works both ways. Jesus knows his sheep—and the sheep know Jesus. The joy that Jesus feels when some of his lost sheep are returned to him, as he describes in Luke 15:4-7, always makes me think of that tear-filled little voice echoing down a hot hallway after being lost for what felt like an eternity.
Too often, when we feel we have lost our way, we feel that we have not gotten there under our own power, but instead there is often a profound feeling of abandonment, at least for a moment. We may feel unloved and unlovable, and treat ourselves as disposable- or allow others to treat us that way. But if we still ourselves, if we can stop our tremulous crying out just for a moment, we can hear the voice of the One Who Loves Us calling to us, welcoming us home, assuring us that we can never be snatched out of his hand, not even by our own wandering away, not even by the hurts that the world may inflict upon us. None of that matters. Listen-- the voice of Love calls to us, and holds us fast within his hand.
(This was originally published on the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul, April 12, 2016.)