The first real live shepherd I ever met was not at all what I expected. No long flowing robes. No gnarled wooden staff. And no full white beard. This shepherd, or “shepherdess,” was dressed in blue jeans and a button-up shirt, long hair pulled up in ponytail – a girl in her early twenties with a university degree in animal husbandry. We met the day before my friend’s wedding in the quaint little village of Winkleigh, in southern England.
“Want to see my sheep?” the girl asked eagerly. Before I could answer, she opened her wallet and out tumbled eight or so photos of the newest additions to the flock. “This is Molly – just 5 months old, and so sweet!” she pointed out proudly. “And this one is Jack – he’s a rascal! He’s always getting into mischief.”
An Attentive Shepherd
This girl was obviously not one of those modern sheep-herders with hundreds of animals that are only identified by the number in their ear-tags. Though they all looked the same to me, each sheep in these photos was unique and precious to the shepherdess. She knew each one by name and she cared for them as if they were her children.
Jesus is that kind of Shepherd. He describes the intimate relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep in John 10:
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:2-4, NRSV).
Listening for my Shepherd’s Voice
Sometimes I doubt whether I can really hear the voice of the Shepherd. I get confused when I listen to all the other voices around me – well-meaning friends giving advice, leaders sharing opinions, critical voices telling me what I’m doing wrong, or inner voices of guilt and condemnation. I doubt my own ability to recognize my Shepherd’s voice.
But my Shepherd knows me. And He does speak to me. He says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). How can I hear His voice? By developing a relationship with Him – reading His Word and spending time talking with Him. As His sheep, I CAN hear and recognize His voice. I just need to be listening.