I’m learning how to shepherd. I feel the call, tugging at my hemline.

But before you can shepherd, you have to know what it means to be a sheep.

Sabbaths are hard for me. Not because I don’t want to rest but because I feel obligated to keep doing, keep producing, keep trying to reach the mark of some sort of standard. A standard I’ve put upon myself, this sort of guilt which plucks at my conscience like it’s a guitar, playing a haunting, sad hymn.

But to be a sheep means to rest while the shepherd stands guard.

The Good Shepherd, who sleeps with one ear and eye open, who cares more about me than I do about my own children and who wants me to lie down in green pastures, to know no want.

But I’ve been wondering about the valley of the shadow.

If this shepherd is standing there, guarding me from the evil one, why do we have to go through things like tribulation and pain and suffering?

A painting for mum who battled brain cancer

Recently our pastor’s wife, who leads worship, sat at the piano, sharing a personal story. She shared how she’d found herself in a place she never wanted to be: on a bed in a cancer clinic waiting to find out the prognosis, and she said, “It was impossible not to worry. Not to wonder about the what if’s. It seemed like the most rational, logical thing to do –that is, to worry.”

But, she added, she knew it wouldn’t result in anything. Worry wouldn’t help. And she longed to know the kind of peace that the Bible talks about, the kind of peace that lasts longer than a few minutes, the kind that transcends all understanding.

And then, she said, her thoughts and prayers led her to the garden of Gethsemene where Jesus was pleading with his father to take away this cup, to let him escape from the pain of the next 72 hours. “But not my will, but your will be done,” he said, and this, she said, is when the peace began to leak in. When she began to rest in “your will be done.”

We may go through the valley of the shadow of death, she said, but our shepherd will be walking right beside us the whole way. We may lose our physical, emotional and mental health, but spiritually we will prosper, because our Lord longs for us to know life and to know it to the full.

No matter what happens–be it cancer or the loss of a job or the loss of a child–if we keep following our shepherd, if we keep trusting that he wants the best for us and has a plan and that he is leading us to a kingdom in which there will be no more tears, no more suffering–then, we will know the kind of peace that lasts.

“We all have a place in our hearts that only we and the Lord know about,” she said then. “A unique place where he wants to meet you. So go to that place and let him meet you today. Just as you are.”