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  • Katie Smith

Bend 'till the break

“I guess you’ve heard the story of the shepherd that broke his sheep’s leg one time. Many little stories have been told about it. And was asked of this shepherd, “Did the sheep fall off of a mountain and do this?”

He said, “No.”

Said, “What happened?”

He said, “I broke its leg.”

Said, “Why did you break its leg? Are you a cruel shepherd?”

He said, “No, I love the sheep. But the sheep got to running away from me. And he kept straying out to itself. And I know the nature of sheep. And I know if they stray too far away, the wolf will get them. So I had to break the sheep’s leg to keep it with me, to draw it to my bosom, to give it a little special food. And I’ll be so kind to it, that when its leg gets well, it’ll never leave me any more.”

(William Marrion Branham, sermon 1957)*

Whether or not this story resembles truth in modern shepherding, I cannot say. I do know that shepherds carried a staff with which they could issue warning or whip, depending on the severity of the sheep's nature. I also know that sheep herders would drape an injured lamb across their backs so as not to lose a single source of income or provision. Such an acute illustration serves as a perfect reminder of our distinct differences and desideratums.

Whether you are the lamb that merely requires a slight slap at the knee, or one who needs a full breaking of both legs, the essential point of the story lies in the amazing intuition of the shepherd. Often times we view our Great Herdsman as one of two parental stereotypes. Either He's carrying us with continual comforting arms, or constantly whipping us into submission. Our limited view neglects the perfection of the Shepherd. He may "lead [us] into the wilderness, [only] to speak tenderly to [us]" (Hosea 2:14). He knows the manner that will correct our character without stripping our spirit.

Moreover, there are those prodigal lambs that need a complete detachment from the flock. They need to risk meeting the wolf, and this doesn't mean the herdsman follows the unruly animal into the wilderness, providing essential bread or bandages per its request. Rather, if the lamb has chosen to run, then the perfect Shepherd will let it go and pray for its return home. Too often we take one story out of the bunch to rehearse and rewind, rather than viewing them all in their appropriate context.

Likewise, many people view "church" from a single lens when each of us is in need of a different formula of exposition. Throwing "pearls to pigs" is akin to a street evangelist yelling condemnation at every passerby. They are bound to be trampled and torn to pieces. Jesus knew that Peter, James and John were ready for the Mount of Transfiguration where He showed himself as bright as God. They were transfixed and open to increased depth while much of the city was only privy to musings of the Sermon on the Mount.

It's not that Jesus loved those three disciples more than the others, but he knew their proficiency for preaching, and He aptly timed their teachings. Thanks be to God we are all different and that there are different kinds of churches. We need to stop judging by mere human standards, because our view is so limited, especially when we are currently peeking out from face masks.

It may be that some of us aren't ready or ever ready for certain life lessons, while others gain glorious gifts through the breaking of our ligaments. If you have ever been the lamb broken and draped, consider yourself blessed that you held such a high position. God placed you on the Shepherd's neck with more care and concern than any parent could muster for the weakest of infants. He adores you, so He disciplines you. Yet, if you are running safely with the flock, do not worry or fear imminent danger. Your herdsman will not break what only needs bending. Trust in His perfect teaching and perfect timing.

Life lessons continue here.... and all need a different dose of discipline along the way.

Stay tuned for organized chaos in summer fun!


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