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The Gentleness of the Good Shepherd

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).

“He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart….”

My youngest daughter, Kinley, is extremely maternal - she frequently scoops her babies into her arms and walks around the house shushing them and cuddling them. She will sit silently and hold them for minutes at a time, focused on the task of caring for her little ones. The Good Shepherd is like this - He has a special place for the lambs - “close to his heart.” He is a tender-hearted Shepherd, and the littlest ones are precious to him. He is focused on their well-being, caring for them in such a way that they will thrive.

This gentle nature of our Good Shepherd encourages me: I can entrust my kids into His care. He holds them, He knows them, He made them. He alone is aware of all of their needs before they even ask. May we release the responsibility of carrying all of the needs and wants of our children on our shoulders - the Good Shepherd carries our kids close to his heart and He will provide for them.

We can also draw our children close to our hearts as the Good Shepherd does - listening to them, creating distraction-free spaces where we can learn how they are really doing. I imagine this kind of “gathering” and “carrying close” will look different for each child and will change with age, but I believe they will always need this kind of attentive care from us. One of my daughters said to me last week, “I feel like you aren’t spending enough time with me” - ouch!!! 😭 That hurt to hear - but after taking her on a date on Saturday I feel that I was able to draw her close, and I pray it made her feel cared for and seen! 🙏🏻💕

“…He gently leads those that have young”

The Good Shepherd leads us….gently. US - the mothers, “those that have young” - He is gentle with us, not harsh or critical. Do you believe that? He looks at you with eyes full of grace and compassion. He has a special concern for you, and knows you need to be led gently on this marathon of motherhood. What a relief, what a gift, that our Good Shepherd would lead us with such tenderness at a pace we can manage.

And not only is He gentle, but He leads us. He will never leave us behind - He will always lead us. We don’t have to know the way because He knows the way (and He IS The Way). A shepherd uses his staff to guide his sheep - Keller lays it out like this in A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23: “Again and again, I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it to actually beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side, and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.” (86). The Good Shepherd guides us by His Spirit, lovingly and clearly providing direction to ensure that we go the way we are supposed to. The Spirit is our Comforter, our Wonderful Counselor, our Advocate - gently leading us through this life and along our journeys of motherhood.

The nature of our Good Shepherd reminds me to lead my children gently - not with harshness or pride, not with anger or intimidation. We must allow ourselves to be led by the Good Shepherd that we might lead with a spirit of gentleness. I have found that the measure of grace I have for myself is often the measure of grace I will extend to my children - am I being gracious and gentle with myself in this season? Am I receiving the grace of God that I might extend it to my kids? We can be gracious with our kids because God has been gracious to us. We can draw our kids close because we have been held by God Himself. We cannot expect too much from these little lambs or drive them too hard, but rather we can offer to them what we have received from God - this gentle care coupled with leadership and guidance.

I’m so thankful that our Good Shepherd is gentle and compassionate with us. May our mothering reflect this gracious and careful leadership that we might lead our lambs straight into His arms.

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