Between His Shoulders

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Atop my bookshelf stands a small wood carving of Jesus as a shepherd, with a staff in his hand and a lamb across his shoulders. It is primitive and roughly carved, yet I contemplate it often because I sometimes see myself as that lamb in need of care.

It is a reminder of the countless times Jesus has carried me when I’ve been too weak and wayward to take my next step, when He lifted me up and draped me across His shoulders, rescuing me from outer circumstances or inner failures I could not escape myself. More than that, it is a vivid picture of His love being a place of protection and rest.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deut. 33:12 NIV)
Before the patriarch Moses died, he pronounced this blessing over the tribe of Benjamin, along with blessings for the other tribes of Israel. The temple, God’s dwelling place on earth, would be located in Benjamin’s territory, surrounded by the protection of shouldering hills. Benjamin is spoken of as a beloved tribe, enjoying intimate communion with the Lord.

This verse also reminds me of the shepherd, Jesus, portrayed often in the New Testament. In Luke 15 Jesus uses a parable about a lost sheep to convey the lengths He will go to seek a lost sinner. In the parable, when the shepherd finds his lost sheep, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” A lamb carried on the shoulders of a strong shepherd or God’s temple secure in the folds of shouldering hills; quite different perspectives, yet vividly depicting the protective, caring heart of the Good Shepherd of my soul.

Not only do I see myself, a child of God, secure and shielded on His shoulders, I also draw comfort from being “the beloved of the Lord” and “the one the Lord loves.” Like a warm blanket, these words wrap around my heart with the everlasting, perfect love only God can provide. What more selfless act of love is there than that of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf?  “I came to give life with joy and abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep in His care.” (John 10:10-11 The Voice)

There is a rest like no other found in the care of the Good Shepherd. The image of resting between His shoulders gives me such a sense of peace and safety. I can rest calmly there, even in the midst of trials and chaos, because I know what it is to experience that peace which passes all understanding, coming from His indwelling Holy Spirit. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller writes, “Our Shepherd knows best when He leads us through the dark valleys with Himself. He knows where we can find strength, and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.”

My rough little carving represents the safest, most loving place I can be, resting between the shoulders of the Shepherd of my soul.

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Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.