One of the best things about living in Lafayette is the proximity of Purdue University and a really awesome Veterinary Hospital. Long ago I read that sheep can get lost by grazing themselves away from the herd nibble by nibble… one blade at a time, wandering off. Wanting to confirm that with a source more reliable than the internet, I verified that info. It is true. As a matter of fact, Caribou have been known to starve because they come to a cliff or a body of water that is impassible and, having exhausted all there is to graze upon around them, they don’t know how to find their way back to where they started.
The prophet Isaiah says “All we like sheep have gone astray…”[i] Certainly the prodigal son went astray. Life must have been pretty sweet living with his father. All of his needs were provided for. But he went off looking for greener pasture, so to speak. He went to a foreign land just looking to have fun and living for the moment. But when he ran out of cash, a severe famine happened in that land and he must have been a little like that hungry caribou at the edge of the cliff.
If our lives as Christian disciples are viewed as a journey, it’s clear that many of us go off course from time to time. We don’t necessarily blow it for ourselves as badly as the prodigal son did. But we do find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be. We find ourselves hungry for something more. We feel alone. Fortunately, like the prodigal son, we are able to process our options more effectively than the sheep and the caribou. We can weigh out our options and know that no matter what we’ve done or how far we’ve strayed, God will always welcome us home. He is a Good Shepherd.
The journey of life is hard. But we never have to walk alone. We never need to resign ourselves to feeling hungry or empty or lonely. God is there for us reassuring us that – no matter what we might think of ourselves – we are always precious children in the eyes of God.
[i] Isaiah 53:6a