One late afternoon, my mother set off with my brother and I heading toward the gate that would allow us entrance into the pasture just behind our farm house. I am sure I went running to the gate and stood waiting for Mommy to get us through to the other side. This was just another opportunity for me to be outdoors and enjoy the farm animals that I felt very much at home. Mommy explained that our father would be home from work soon, and it would be a good thing to get the cows into the holding pen by the dairy barn. That way my father would have a head start on getting the evening milking done.
I am certain I led the way down the hillside as I watched the cows meandering and grazing in the meadow that was divided by a small creek. Being around 5 years old at the time, I was the older sibling with a very determined spirit. Farm life was a great adventure for me. My brother was still figuring out how to maneuver on two legs and was naturally more cautious about the “big” cows so he was with my mother. Once we made our way to the far end of the pasture where a few cows straggled behind, my mother and I were exuberantly urging the cows to move up the hill towards the barn. We had made some progress when I happened to glance towards the highway that framed the left side of the fenced-in pasture. With an excited VOICE, I yelled acknowledging that Daddy was home, and he was getting ready to turn the car into the driveway in front of our house.
In a matter of seconds that I hardly recollect, I heard Daddy hollering at the top of his lungs. Next, I spotted him literally racing through the pasture toward me, his arms waving wildly as he continued shouting. I turned just in time to see the sprinting black and white Holstein bull heading in my direction. The only thing I remember next is how upset my daddy was. Instead of being grateful that his family was helping him get the cows to the dairy barn, he was angry with my mother for putting his children in harm’s way. Apparently, this bull’s disposition had become an issue, meaning it was not a safe animal to be around, particularly for naïve individuals. After we all had reached safety and calmed down, there were no further repercussions from the attempted “cattle drive.” Being so young, I soon dismissed the danger involved and never truly understood what a vulnerable position I had been in until later in life.
Looking back, my father had been my protector that day in a very physical way. His VOICE had stopped that bull from advancing. His presence had made a difference. As an adult, I have allowed myself to ask the “What If” questions. What if my daddy had not arrived home when he did? What if he had not been able to subdue the bull when he did? The “What If’s” are many. Daddy passed away when he was 86 years old, but he would have been 100 this past November 3rd if he were still living. For me, that day was a time to remember how grateful I am that I had a father who always tried to protect me from the “bulls” in life. My father was not perfect. He had his faults like we all do, but I realize now that his protective nature was always a part of who he was. I am grateful that God gave me a father that loved me enough to offer me protection when I needed it.
Then I have to wonder how much more my heavenly Father loves me. After all, He is the omnipotent Creator of all the universe. How many times has He rescued me from unknown physical dangers or guided me away from harmful choices? Above all is the truth that my heavenly Father provided salvation for me through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. God is love and His promises hold true–not just for me, but for you and each one of His children.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2
Because God is love, He desires to provide our needs and to protect us. His purposes formed through love are higher and greater because He is the Sovereign One. He loves us and desires to be our fortress.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46: 1
He wants to be our defender—not always taking us immediately out of a situation but providing us the way to persevere or to lean on Him until we walk through the situation. His promise to us remains true–we are able to call to Him at any time. Knowing this to be true, how often do we genuinely acknowledge God, our spiritual Father, as the Helper we so desperately need in the moment? Do we seek His help immediately, or do we try to prevail through our prideful purposes and often limited efforts? Or do we simply not recognize His VOICE—His words that are able to offer comfort and direction?
For nearly four decades, my father always maintained a herd of sheep. They were the farm animals he watched over even into his 70’s. Sheep are docile and stick together, but they are very much in need of a shepherd for protection. We as humans often presume that sheep do not think well, might even say they are stupid–often oblivious to danger until it is too late. My father understood sheep, and he truly was the shepherd for his flock and their protector. Daddy never liked the idea of guns but knowing that his flock needed him, he eventually learned to shoot a rifle to fend off coyotes that viciously attacked his sheep from time to time. I often was amazed at how important those sheep were to my father, but I saw how those sheep followed his lead–his herd trusted him and responded to his care.
Later in his senior years, I have a strong image of Daddy standing by the gate of a holding pen around dusk hollering out for his sheep to return home. I was always amazed at how my dad patiently stood waiting for each sheep and even the lambs to head toward him and pass through the gate. They would obediently enter their shelter for the night, away from the dangers that might lurk in the dark. When the herd was safely in the pen, Daddy would survey his flock, secure the gate, and walk back to the house. Even as my dad aged, he was still performing his role as protector, and those sheep responded because they knew his VOICE.
I know there are individuals who have not had earthly fathers to protect them as I did. You may not even have known or possess good memories of a birth father, but we all have access to a heavenly Father—one who is faithful and is a protector we can always count on. What is the key to a strong relationship that provides protection? We must recognize God’s VOICE and listen to the guidance He so desperately wants to share. He desires to take care of us and is the ultimate example of what a true shepherd is like—sacrificing for those He watches over. God understands that we as humans do not always think well left to our own disillusioned ideas and whims. In fact, each one of us needs a Shepherd.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10: 27
I think part of my protection those many years ago came from the fact that I knew Daddy’s voice and concentrated on that instead of being aware of the bull…running from the animal would not have been in my best interest. I recognized Daddy’s voice because I had spent time with him. Even as a young child, I understood that my Daddy loved me and wanted the best for me. I naturally responded to my protector instead of the danger that lurked nearby.
How do you respond to God as your protector, your Shepherd, in times of need? Do you recognize His VOICE above the daunting problem or the alluring danger? Do you understand the deep LOVE that God has for you — the only pure LOVE that never fails to be there for you? What you and I need to embrace is that we do not need to wait for a problem or danger to be close to God or Jesus. Our great God and His Son Jesus are there for us–every moment, every day–ready to take us by the hand and guide us step by step.
A song by Amanda Cook simply called Shepherd shares those thoughts:
“You make my footsteps and my path secure
So walking water is just the beginning
‘Cause my faith to arise, stand at attention
For You are calling me to the greater things”
“And You will lift my head above the mighty waves
You are able to keep me from stumbling
And in my weakness
You are the strength that comes from within
Good Shepherd of my soul
Take my hand and lead me on”
My hope is that you recognize His VOICE and call out to the Great Shepherd with these words, “Take my hand and lead me on.” My prayer is that you depend on Him as your Protector and trust Him with your life.
Feeling grateful for the memories of my earthly father and the constant presence of my heavenly Father. Today may each of you walk a little closer with the Great Shepherd.