Written by Cara Huber, MSW, Supervisee in Social Work

I love summer in the Shenandoah Valley. Ten years ago this month, my little family and I packed up and moved here from my childhood state of Texas. I completely fell in love with the valley, the mountains, the farm land, and the summers. Oh, the summers. Warm sun, soft breezes, and temperatures that didn’t make you feel like you were living in a pressure cooker. The move here was one of the best decisions my husband and I ever made, and the past ten years have proven that this move was God calling us home. The journey here was not without challenges though, and throughout the moving process my emotions spanned every hue of the rainbow – and sometimes within just a few minutes! During one particularly stressful period in our move, I was up in the wee hours of the morning with a teething baby, watching the Weather Channel in a desperate attempt to distract my frazzled mind. As I watched, they showed a report of a late spring snowfall somewhere in Ireland. (I think? Remember it was the middle of the night and there was a teething baby. Geography was not my priority.) They showed a ditch full of sheep that were buried in the snow up to their necks. The poor sheep stood, shivering, unable to move, and weighed down by the heavy ice caking their wool. Suddenly, their shepherd leapt down into the ditch by their side and stood with them. He then took hold of their wool firmly and with a strong, swift whoosh he swung them up over his head and deposited them onto the firm ground. He continued to rescue every single one of his flock, one by one. As he would swing the sheep up to safety, their journey would take them upside down, no ground under their feet, legs thrashing wildly. They looked vastly uncomfortable within the process, but once their hooves hit the ground, they just trotted off, seemingly very comfortable with their new state of affairs.

As I watched the sheep and their shepherd, I was struck by how much I could relate with my fluffy, fearful animal friends. I felt upside down, without firm ground, and like I was flailing. I was forgetting that even though I was feeling discomfort and disorientation, I was still being held firmly by MY Shepherd. I was always gripped tightly by His pierced hands. He died to make me his, to call me beloved. He would not abandon me within this journey. So it is within our personal journeys as well. The work of breaking free from chains, shining the light of truth on lies, and tearing apart the enemy’s attempts to keep us from our Lord, our Abba – it is hard work. We can often feel like we are flailing, disoriented, and not sure which way is up, but we are gripped tightly in the hands of our Abba Father who promises that He will be with us and never fail or abandon us (Deut. 31:8). In the darkest moments and coldest, saddest places, we are not forgotten or abandoned. Rather, our Shepherd jumps into the ditch with us and then hoists us to safety. The journey may be uncomfortable, but we are held tightly within it and brought to a place of security. As I draw this to a close, I want to leave you with a blessing in the form of my favorite poem by Jan Richardson. Through your journey, wherever it may take you, may you remember that you are seen, rescued, and named as Beloved by your Shepherd.

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.
Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.
Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.
I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.
But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.
I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.
I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause

than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:
—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace