Growling Bushes and a Gentle Shepherd
By Rev. Darren Stroh
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above and not on things that are on earth.” —Colossians 3:1-2, NRSV
I loved to spend time with a wise old shepherd in my first call. Every so often, when time would allow, we’d pick a day and just wander around the fields checking on his sheep and talk about everything and anything that came to his mind. One day, we were just walking around and he saw a lamb off from the group standing still, facing a bush. “That don’t look good,” he said and we began to make our way towards that little lamb. The shepherd would call to the lamb trying to get it to come to him, but the lamb just stood frozen.
When we got within about 15 feet of the lamb, even this city boy had an idea as to what was going on. The bush growled with a low ominous growl. The shepherd motioned for me to back away and get behind him. The shepherd inched his way towards the lamb slowly and with each step he would call to the lamb. The lamb was just as rigid and responsive as a statue. The shepherd was close enough to use his walking stick to tap the lamb. It still didn’t budge. Keeping one eye on the bush and one eye on the lamb, the shepherd bent down and turned the head of the lamb towards him. Once the lamb saw the shepherds face, it immediately relaxed and focused on the shepherd. “Get out of here now. Go on!” was the shepherd’s terse command to which the lamb quickly complied.
The growl in the bush turned out not to be a wolf or coyote like he had feared, but the neighbor’s dog that had injured his leg somehow. With that, we breathed a sigh of relief. But the image of that lamb frozen in time and space has never left me. That’s because he reminds me of me.
When I focus on the things of earth, earthly things that hide in bushes growl back. And like that lamb, I freeze wondering just when it’s going to pounce and gobble me up. The voice of my Master may be calling me to safety, but I can’t hear it. I’m too focused on the potential danger instead of my committed savior. Just like that shepherd, my shepherd bends down and turns my head towards him. When I focus on Him, even the growly bushes aren’t frightening anymore. Oh, if I could just learn to listen for His voice first. How many sleepless nights could be avoided? Amen?
A mentor of mine told me once that we pay the most attention to the things towards which we point our noses. Point our nose towards problems and that’s all we see. But if we turn our eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Prayer: Our Great Shepherd, even though we sometimes walk through what feels like the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil for your rod and your staff they comfort us. Great is your faithfulness! Amen.
Rev. Darren Stroh is the new pastor at
First Baptist Church of Lamar, CO.