by Nan Corbitt Allen
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart… Isaiah 40:11 NIV
I remember the first time I heard my son’s heartbeat at an early prenatal appointment. It was music to my ears! I had waited for that moment for a long time, and it was pure joy to me and my husband. Then I became aware that my child was hearing my heartbeat, too.
I read about a mother who recorded her own heartbeat while she was pregnant and then periodically played it back to her newborn, so that he would feel she was always near and be comforted. It was not just any heartbeat either. It was hers!
Isaiah captured the metaphorical hearing of a heartbeat in the passage above. The picture of a shepherd gathering his lambs into his embrace reminds me that God holds me close to His heart. I can hear and feel His presence. Though I often want to wiggle out of His grasp, I love coming back and being held close, listening to His heartbeat again.
In that same chapter, Isaiah writes, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40: 25-26 NIV).
My aunt had ten children in twenty years. She could, of course, name each child and his or her birthday. And even as she got older, she could name every grandchild, every great-grandchild, and every great-great grandchild along with their birthdays attached. Often at large family reunions, I would marvel at her ability to tell when someone was missing, and in knowing her circle was never complete without that one (or more) who was absent.
Jesus used the analogy of a flock of sheep and their shepherd in a parable: “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off” (Matthew 18: 12-13 NIV).
I remember singing this old song in church about the ninety-and-nine when I was young:
There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold
But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold…
At times in my life I have sometimes felt like I was one of the ninety-nine He left behind while tending to someone else. I also wondered what would have happened if the 99 were attacked while He was gone—because they were left alone and vulnerable.
But just lately, I revisited this idea and rediscovered that Jesus’ parable DOES apply to me. I AM the one—as well as one of the 99. Sometimes still I wander away, and He brings me back (holding me next to His heart). Sometimes I feel just as secure grazing happily on the hillside. And I am reminded by the words of Peter: “…Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV).
About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.
Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.
Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.
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