Pause for thought: ‘All is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work’
On holiday in Crete a few weeks ago we came across a newborn lamb which had become separated from its mother and the rest of the flock. I couldn’t go past and leave it, knowing that it wouldn’t survive by itself. It was getting tired, so I picked it up while we searched for its mother. We eventually found her, and she was happily reunited with her lamb. My thoughts turned to the parable of the lost sheep, and from there thinking about why Jesus likens us to sheep. I have a fondness for sheep, I’m not sure why as they are not the brightest of animals; a farmer friend describes them as having a death wish, a sentiment echoed by Jeremy Clarkson on Clarkson’s farm.
It’s perhaps not entirely complimentary that Jesus likens us to sheep, although if I’m honest perhaps we are more like them in our Christian journey than we care to admit. All of us at times go our own way, or follow what others are doing, rather than God, and then find ourselves in a bit of bother as a result. We can think we know best instead of trusting in him. As I held that lamb on holiday I felt I had a glimpse into the good shepherd’s heart for us, that deep love that nothing can separate us from. A love that isn’t dependent on what we do, but a love that exists no matter what we do. It reminded me that God’s number one priority is to have a relationship with us, out of which our service to him flows, not the other way round.
While I know in my heart that his love comes from grace not from anything I might do to earn it, my head struggles to accept that sometimes. Even my prayer times can become a tick list of things I have to talk to God about. I was reminded again of how essential it is to come to God just to spend time with him, to be still in his presence, and to listen to him, in an attitude of complete submission to the one who knows and loves me best, and remembering that ‘all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work’ (Henri Nouwen). Reuniting the lamb with its mother was pretty special (and much to the relief of my husband who thought we might end up stuck with it!), made more special by what God reminded me through it.