Between His Shoulders

img_2580

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.

A Rescuing Light

2007_0715BC0122The scent of sun-warmed pine and salt air streamed past me as I coasted on my bicycle down the winding hill to one of my favourite summer destinations. My friend and I planned to spend the day roaming around Fort Rodd Hill, an old coastal artillery fortress and Canadian national historic site near Victoria, BC. It was a child’s paradise, with tame deer feeding on its extensive grounds, underground tunnels, cement barracks, and guard towers to explore and pretend in. When it came time to eat our picnic lunch, we always headed down the sand spit to Fisgard Lighthouse.

The red brick house and tall white tower were built in 1860 by the British, before Vancouver Island was part of Canada. Fisgard was the first lighthouse built on the Canadian west coast, and still lights the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, home of the Royal Canadian Navy base.

As a child, these dry facts meant little, but what did capture me was the romantic idea of living in a lighthouse. I could picture myself as the heroic lighthouse keeper climbing the spiral iron staircase to tend the lights on a stormy night, sending the bright beams flashing through the dark to guide a sea-tossed ship home to safe harbour. I imagined I heard the mournful two-note dirge of the foghorn as diaphanous fog smothered sea and shore in gray mist. The lighthouse was a beacon, offering rescue and safety to those in danger, and I was drawn to the high calling it represented.

A decade later, the storms of life were battering me so hard I almost foundered, but for the lighthouse of Jesus shining through the darkness. He shone the bright beam of His love over the wind-whipped waves of my difficult marriage, a sinking sense of identity and the daily struggle of raising three small children. His light illuminated the truth of who He is, the Son of God sent to rescue the perishing. How I needed rescuing!

In a storm there is much confusion. Forces stronger than yourself push and batter until any sense of direction is lost. It is hard to see and harder still to hold on. Fear and fatigue tempt you to slip beneath the waves. But then a light flashes out of the tumultuous darkness. The storm still rages but now there is hope in that strong beam of light, beckoning you to safety. The source of the light is a place of refuge and strength, of peace and security.

That is Jesus Christ to me. He is my lighthouse. He said in His Word, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) And I can respond with all certainty, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1)

His is a light that will never be extinguished, able to pierce through the darkness of sin and offer the stronghold of His love and forgiveness to everyone lost. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” (2 Sam. 22:29)

 

 

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. 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.