“But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers." John 10:2-5
The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. I believe our hearts are restless until we rest in Him. And yet I don’t believe we can rest in Him without following Him to that resting place. It is hard work to be a Christian! Our Shepherd is Good. Our Shepherd is merciful. Our Shepherd will lift us up and carry us when we fall. But our Shepherd also asks us to listen to His voice and follow it, and sometimes that path will be rocky, dusty, and exhausting. And our only job is to keep listening to that voice.
But we live in a fast-paced world, a world where voices are shouting for our attention (sometimes literally!), where materialism, individualism, greed, sex, and addictions tempt us daily, a world that calls us to focus on our appearance, to be selfish with our time, to chase after success in our careers over success in this faith marathon we run. So how in the world do we continue to fend off these voices with the best football stiff arm we have? We listen to that voice. And there’s no way to listen without spending time in silence daily.
I try to convince myself daily that I don’t need to spend time with God in silence. “Oh, it will be fine if you skip it today.” “You’ll pray extra long tomorrow.” “You have too much to do – God would rather you work a little longer.” But over time, His voice disappears. It gets quieter and quieter and the world gets louder and louder until it’s too late.
To hear God’s voice, we must turn down the world’s volume.
Go to that quiet place. Stop moving. Watch the sunset. Take that lunch break by yourself. Sit under the tree. Leave the phone in your pocket. St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us of a short prayer to begin: “Come Holy Spirit, guide me, protect me, clear out my mind so that I can pray.”
But one of my favorite prayers of all is found in our Offertory song this week:
“Guide me, O Shepherd of my heart; lead me homeward through the dark into everlasting day. Show me the way of truth and light; keep me always in your sight. May my life never part from the Shepherd of my heart.”