Lessons Learned from the Shepherd

I have a scar on my left ankle. Four scars to be precise.

Instead of looking at them as blemishes, imperfections or even battle wounds, I’ve come to think of them as marks of ownership.

This mental outlook certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’ll never forget how many months it took for me to feel comfortable without a sock on or wear sandals in public.

But each mark is a sign to me of the lessons I learned during some of the toughest days of my life. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I would want to repeat them again, but in hindsight, the road God took me on four years ago was a path my life desperately needed to be on.

There is an old legend about how years ago when shepherds dotted the hills and countrysides of an era long past, there was a particularly effective, albeit painful method that a shepherd would use to guard his flock. If hours of training and repeated attempts to herd a lamb with his staff did not prove successful, the shepherd would resort to a last chance plan. It would not be easy on either party, but out of genuine love, the shepherd knew what he must do.

He would heart-wrenchingly break the leg of his stubborn and resistant lamb. Then tenderly, ever so gently, the shepherd would set the injury and care for his beloved charge.

Sheep are completely dependent, so one with a broken leg was even more helpless.

But the shepherd would not abandon his little troublemaker. Instead, he would take the lamb in his arms, placing it gently upon his shoulders.

This was the sheep’s sole method of transportation. Gone were the days when the lamb could stray away from his caretaker. Now it was wholly under the care and protection of his shepherd.

Over time the break would heal, but through these weeks and months a special bond would form between the shepherd and his lamb. They grew inseparable; he wanting to provide for his charge’s every need and the lamb simply content to abide in his presence. This tender relationship continued even after the leg was mended. Through it all the sheep had finally learned to trust and rest contentedly.

It’s not much a stretch to substitute my name for the sheep in this story. Suffice it to say, it required not one, but two “leg breakings” for me to finally want to abide with my Shepherd. Those days—and often nights—were long and dark, but God was right there with me. His arms encircled me and carried me through two surgeries and a year of painful healing and physical therapy.

At times, it sounded almost too good to be true to think that I’d be able to walk for more than 2-3 hours without pain. But miracles do indeed happen on earth. Although, the lessons I learned during those dark days will stay with me forever.

My scars are not scars.

They are a daily reminder of the love of my shepherd, a Shepherd who loved me enough to give me four marks of ownership as a reminder of the everlasting fact that I am His, and He truly is mine.

Image Credit: Fr Antunes

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