05 Mar Do You Hear What I Hear?
Dr. Marilyn Borst is Associate Director for Partnership Development with The Outreach Foundation and a member of North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. She serves on the Presiding Board of The Fellowship Community.
I spend quite a bit of time on airplanes and I have noticed that an increasing number of travelers don serious headsets upon settling into their seats. These so called “noise canceller’s” filter out unwanted sounds (crying babies, engine drone, safety instructions) and allow in music of the listener’s choosing. I wish I had a “spiritual” version of those headsets…
During this season of Lent, I have been reflecting on how to be a better listener to Christ’s calling and have found his seemingly prosaic analogy unexpectedly inspiring: My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
I remember that long before caller ID was an option you actually had to answer the phone to find out who wanted to speak with you. Those who wished to tempt us with new aluminum siding for our homes, would follow our “hello” with their own name or business: “Good morning, this is ______.” But for a small circle of our family and friends, the sound of their voice was enough to identify them: a privilege afforded to our spouse, a child, a BFF. And Christ reminds us of our need to listen well to the One who knows us best.
Isn’t it interesting that the “following” is not predicated by details of where, or why, or how to follow? Sheep do not have the analytic skills to assess whether the shepherd’s summons might be risky, inconvenient, or costly. They just follow when they hear that voice. No doubt, their experience has taught them to trust that voice.
Whether we have followed Christ our whole life or have just recently yielded to his authority, we have much to learn from those sheep. His call to follow may lead us through uncomfortable challenges, risky Kingdom service, or encounters with people whose company is less than pleasant. His call may force us to re-prioritize our finances, our use of time, and the people whose company we keep. It might even involve extreme sacrifice as the Church in places like Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan reminds us much too frequently, these days. Be it those wooly sheep, or the Bride of Christ in difficult places, or our own much more mundane response of discipleship, listening to the Shepherd both establishes identity (we are His) and guarantees our destiny (we are His, forever).
How comforting is that?!?