When The Sheep Wanders Off

Posted by Ethos Church on

The following blog was written by Caity Shinnick and Jennifer Barnett. Caity leads the creative and communication efforts here at Ethos, she's married to Will (Cannery worship pastor) & is mama to 3 kids under age 6, and she's passionate about seeing God's truth and love transform lives as they encounter Him. Jennifer, along with her husband Cory (Ethos Elder), leads Freedom Prayer here at Ethos and all over the country, she's mama to 4 amazing kids, and she is insightful, kind, and a fierce prayer warrior.

They have written the following blog together with the hopes that anyone who identifies as the wandering sheep may be found by the Good Shepherd! 

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What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:4–7

Sheep aren’t rebellious and they aren’t really trying to escape. A sheep grazes in the field. If you’ve been around a farm, or even if you’ve driven past fields of cows or sheep…you’ve likely seen them grazing. Head down, munching on the grass, wandering and eating. Not necessarily pursuing a certain destination, just wandering and eating.

And then that sheep that really keeps its head down and wanders…it ends up far from the flock. Not intentionally. But once it’s off on its own, it doesn’t know how to get back with the shepherd or the rest of the sheep. And what happens if it wanders to the edge of the field…along the edges of the forest, into the woods a little? What happens when it reaches the brambles? The thick growth in the forest?

That poor sheep gets stuck. And it never meant for it to go like this. What started as just eating and wandering…has now turned into being trapped. Completely stuck and away from where it belongs.

Put yourself in that sheep’s spot.

Have you ever found yourself here…alone and stuck? Having wandered from our Heavenly Father, our good Shepherd?

Sometimes we wander because we’re curious.  And our curiosity attracts us to something that looks innocent enough but before we know it, we are in over our head.  We had no idea and we were deceived into something that is much worse than what we thought.  Our words and agreements can get us stuck, our decisions can get us stuck, and our connection to unhealthy relationships can get us stuck too.

If I tell myself internally everyday that “I am not good enough” eventually it not only feels true, but it actually becomes my identity.  I believe far beyond just a thought - it is now who I am.

If I decide to participate in something that grabs my curiosity and despite believing I could handle it, I discover that it is darker, scarier and more complicated than I knew, it can feel impossible to step out of it. That new reality can feel like a prison that I can’t escape.

If I get tied to a person in a relationship (platonic or romantic) that is outside of God’s design, their voice becomes the one in my head, the most important voice and we are connected now, even after the relationship ends and in a sense, I am attached to that person, whether I want to be or not.  I feel the pull and the attachment, because I am.  

Maybe it was a relationship…where someone’s voice kind of took over your head space and you stopped listening to the voice of the Lord…and the other person’s “voice” started calling the shots…hypothetical situations playing out in your head, evoking reactions and decisions out of you over and over again.

Or a past relationship, maybe a dating relationship even, causes you to go back to it again and again. You feel tied there, like that sheep feels caught in the thicket. You can’t shake that old relationship, no matter how hard you try. It seems to keep telling you who you are (or who you aren’t)…and you are just stuck. You can’t move forward.

So what is the solution? If you are stuck in the brambles and thicket, and you’re out there all alone?

Picture and feel for a moment what that feels like, “Stuck and alone.”  Now, think about the truth that a good Shepherd is looking for you.  He is intent on finding you.

The Shepherd leaves the flock safely together in the open field, because He has noticed you are missing. He’s in pursuit of you, He knows where to find you. And when he does, he breaks the ties that keep you trapped. He lifts you out of the thicket.

And He doesn’t expect you to trail behind in shame as you head back to the flock, but instead He lifts you on his shoulders, carrying you and bearing the weight as HE REJOICES.

Did you hear that? HE REJOICES! You have been found. And He rejoices! And He gathers His friends and neighbors to celebrate. He’s making a big deal about it…the Shepherd has found his lost sheep, He has found you.

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Does this all seem familiar to you? Maybe a little too familiar? You don’t have to stay stuck. You can call out to our Heavenly Father and He will come to you.

First, get somewhere quiet. Take a deep breath. In, and then out. Think about Jesus, the Good Shepherd looking for you.

And there you are, just kind of stuck. Tell Him that you want to be found, you don’t want to stay alone and stuck.  Ask Him to come to you. We know in scripture that as we draw near to the Father, He draws near to us, too. So as stuck as you feel, as far off as you may be, as ashamed or distant as you are…draw near in your heart and be willing to be found.

Try saying a short prayer, maybe the following…

“Jesus, I don’t know how I got here, but I seem to be stuck. Will you meet me here?”

And let Him speak in that place. Take a deep breath, and just try to listen or sense what He wants to do there.

As He finds you in the stuck places, tell Him you don’t want to stay there anymore. That you long to return with Him.

And the things that have held you there, it’s time for them to go. It’s time to break agreement with the ties that have held you down. Do this in your own words. Some possible ways to do this are…

“That person’s voice (fill in the blank) has been the driving force in my thoughts and actions even though I wish it wasn’t.  It has been my motivation because I am fearful and ashamed.  I don’t want that voice to be the one I “hear” in my head anymore.  Jesus, I want your voice to be the one I hear.  I give you permission to get me unstuck.”

“That decision that I stumbled into that seemed ok has actually taken over.  And I don’t want it to be all that I think about and in the places where it’s ruling me now, Jesus, I want to be ruled by you.  I give you permission to pick me up out of it.”

“Those words that I speak internally over myself all of the time; they have trapped me and are in direct opposition to what you Jesus say.  I choose today to agree with your words and give you permission to remove me from those places of self condemnation.

Now sit in that. Imagine those ties falling away, that what’s held you there has been cut away. And ask Jesus to lift you out.

“Jesus, will you carry me?”

As you give Him permission to lift you out, imagine yourself being held close to Him. He rejoices in this moment of repentance. In this place that you have wandered off and now have chosen to be found. The Shepherd has found His lost sheep.

As Jesus the good Shepherd carries you and holds you close, let Him speak His love over you. Ask Him for His heart towards you.

“Jesus, what is your heart towards me?”

If you have trouble knowing how He feels, rest in this…HE REJOICES THAT YOU ARE FOUND. He lifts you out of the stuck places, he rescues you. You are no longer held by those ties, no longer called by those names or labels. You are not bound because Jesus has released you! He knows you can’t do it on his own, and his heart of love longs to set you free. He doesn’t hold your wandering over you, He doesn’t shame you and punish you. You are His, and you’ve been lost…but now you are found! He proudly shows off that He has found you! He loves you, He cares for you, He wants to restore your place in the flock.

Take that in. You have a rightful place with the Shepherd because He has come to find you and bring you back in, in joy and celebration and love!

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If you have any questions about this post, feel free to email Caity at . If you want to know more about Freedom Prayer, go here.

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