My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me. I give them eternal life,
and they will never perish, and no one will
snatch them out of my hand.
One of the hardest things about being a single parent is the endless stream of decisions that must be made solo. Where to live, how to educate, the best ways to spend time and money, which memories are the most formative and important, which relationships to invest in, and the list goes on. There are days when I would give anything to go back in time to Nathan getting a job in Houston. I’d signed on with him, so we packed up everything and went – “following the leader, wherever he will go.” Though a cross-country move was not easy, it was infinitely simpler than the ever-present internal battle raging in my brain, which tends to overthink everything and seek everyone’s advice…a fine trait except it inevitably lands you in the crossfires of twenty different opinions, desperately searching for your own amidst the mental chaos.
This season in particular finds me at a crossroads, where the decisions made in the next few months will likely determine the trajectory of our lives for years to come. The magnitude of these decisions can be paralyzing. I am terrified of making the wrong decisions, missing or misunderstanding God, and landing my daughter in therapy. My gut recourse is to reason everything out, make lists of pros and cons, talk to everyone I know and respect and narrow the decisions down to the most logical ones that the most people agree on. But where am I in all this? What about the whispers of dreams that God has been planting in my heart for my entire life? Why am I so ready to go along with the majority vote, cashing in my own opportunity to know and be led by the Shepherd of my soul? Of course there is great value in the advice of friends and family and we were never meant to go it completely alone – but am I clinging to what’s right there in front of me rather than withdrawing to hear the voice of God speak directly to my heart?
Recently some lovely people at church prayed for me, and their prayers centered around the concept of knowing Christ as my Shepherd. They prayed that both me and Elissa would hear His voice and be filled with a sense of Him leading us. I clung to that word for dear life, realizing that I’ve allowed the voice of my Savior to be crowded and all but stifled by the clamoring voices filling my head. I never mentioned those prayers to Elissa, but that night at dinner she said, with a mouth full of burger, “Guess what Mom! God is our Shepherd, and He leads us!” Wow. Talk about out of the – full – mouths of babes…a direct download of truth to my heart and hers. I didn’t even need to share this with her; her good Shepherd instilled it right in her heart. As Jesus prayed in Matthew 11, “I thank you, Father…that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.”
Accepting Jesus as my Shepherd, my Leader, my Lord necessitates a radical lifestyle change. Just as He rose early, while it was still dark, to be alone and commune with His Father, I must create the time and the solitude in my life to withdraw and receive my daily briefing. There can be no clear direction in a life abuzz with activity, a brain clouded by a constant stream of social media, an atmosphere of noise and distraction. I must be radical – not just for my own sake, but because I am modeling for my daughter how to be a woman built on the solid rock of God’s truth. Hearing His voice is absolutely vital to our survival! “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4)
Whose voice am I following? My pastor’s? An author’s? The consensus of my small group? Or is my ear finally attuned to the voice of my Creator, who calls me by name and leads me out of my safe, sheltered existence – along a rocky trail, through the valley of the shadow of death, to springs of radical and abundant life? I pray that I won’t settle for anything less.