Today, Feb. 16, is my beloved wife Michelle’s birthday.
I would share her age, but I prefer the interior of our home during rainy season. Over the years nobody has been a dearer friend, a more trusted confidant, a more dependable cheerleader and more respected critic than my “Chelle.”
Happy birthday sweetheart! I love you devotedly.
Just recently we celebrated our 20th anniversary as husband and wife by enjoying a short getaway up to Portland, Ore. We chose Portland because for the past two decades Michelle has heard me rave about it. During my “infamous airline days” with Eastern Airlines back in the 1980s, my favorite layover destination was Portland. As a much younger version of me, I enjoyed the dramatic contrast of the city to the southeastern United States, where I was raised.
Likewise, I loved the climate, the pace of the city, the coffee and the people-watching was mesmerizing. Though I had not been to Portland for 28 long years, I was confident and looking forward to leading Chelle to all the old sights I remembered and treasured.
So, with ticket prices low and a few open days on our hands, we booked our flights and lodging and headed north for some great reconnection-time.
What happened next was totally unanticipated. Once we got there, I didn’t remember a thing. I remembered just a handful of sights, like Pioneer Square, Nordstrom and the “Portland” sign. That’s it! Even the airport was completely foreign to me.
Here was my precious bride trusting me, eager to let me lead her nostalgically throughout the city I loved as a 20-something, and nothing looked remotely familiar. The funniest part? Over the next few days she led me! In no time flat, she oriented herself to our location and became the tour guide and expert on all things Portland. Humbling? You bet. Were we able to laugh about it? Immediately. We still are!
Let me put on my pastor’s hat for a minute and ask you the reader an honest but important question – who are you following? In other words, who is leading you?
Let’s face it. As fellow human beings and sojourners in this world and life together, we face many things that we think we understand, but when actually encountered look very unfamiliar to us – big things like marriage, parenthood, education, career, death, life after divorce, etc. All of us can agree that we never lack for challenges.
It is in these real challenges that the leadership we choose to follow and the directions we heed becomes vital. Someone once said that, “You’re only as good as your leadership.” I agree.
In the New Testament in the gospel of John (chapter 10), Jesus told His audience repeatedly that He was the “good shepherd.” To the ancients, His self-identification plucked a chord of real understanding and peace; for us urbanites in Solano County, maybe not so much. The shepherd was the one who knew his sheep, loved his sheep, led his sheep, cared for his sheep, protected his sheep and knew what was best for his sheep. In return, the sheep knew his voice distinctly and followed him wherever he led them, knowing over their lifetimes that he was someone who could be trusted in their day-to-day existence.
Friends, I have personally found in my life that Jesus is still the good shepherd.
I have also found that as a local pastor in our community, I can only lead and shepherd my family and congregation to the degree that I am willing to follow the good shepherd and be willing to be shepherded by Him. Simply put, he knows me – everything about me. He knows my dreams and ambitions, my less-than-stellar past, my stressors and every single challenge I face.
In spite of my weakness, inconsistencies and fears, he loves me to the point of His own sacrifice and death. His will and his ways toward me are always good, and he knows exactly what he is doing and where he is leading me, even when I don’t.
History proves with countless examples that who you choose, or allow to lead you, makes all the difference.
In a big volatile and unpredictable world where everything seems to look less and less familiar, who are you following? Why not say “yes” today to the loving guidance and care of the Good Shepherd?
You’ll never regret it!
Steve Kiefer is the lead pastor at the First Christian Church in Suisun City. He can be reached at www.1stchristianchurch.org.