As a child, I was often reminded not to “toot my own horn.” In the Facebook era, this seems a quaint and even archaic attitude. Self-promotion is the order of the day, as we carefully construct a facade of enviable success. We present ourselves in the best light possible: calm, contented, in control.
Beneath that exoskeleton, however, reality often looks different. The beautifully photographed child is having trouble at school. The smiling spouse just lost his job. The Caribbean vacation was paid for with an over-leveraged credit card. Everything is not well in hand, and like the crowds in today’s Gospel, we are troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. But in the privacy of prayer, we do not have to conceal the imperfections of our lives from God.
God knows the truth and embraces us not because we have shiny resumes, glowing transcripts or job successes, but because we come to him in our brokenness, trusting that he will look not on the outward appearance, as humans do, but will look with the heart. In The Shepherd’s Life, his delightful account of the workings of his family’s sheep farm in England’s Lake District, James Rebanks describes watching his young daughter come across a field guiding ewes and their lambs: “She understands sheep, and cuts left or right behind them to keep them walking in the right direction.” As we pray today, let us give thanks that our Shepherd understands and loves us, keeping us walking in the right direction.
O wise and patient Shepherd, lead me on the straight path that will take me to you. Amen.
Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill is an author, lecturer and Biblical scholar. She is the co-author, with Joseph Papp, of Shakespeare Alive! (Bantam Books), and is a contributor to Commonweal and America.