Gently Lead Those That are With Young

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When my parents moved a couple of years ago, they gave my youngest son a painting. The painting is of a Pakistani shepherd. He is holding a lamb on his shoulders, and his expression is one of gentle love. 

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It was my first day in Iraq and I was at the offices of our Iraqi hosts. While sitting there, a young couple from the United States walked into the room. They had two blonde little boys, toddler and pre-school age. As the dad went to a meeting, I talked a bit to the mom. They have been living and working in Iraq for a couple of years. Their children ate a lot of cookies and actively engaged with those of us in the office. They talked excitedly about going to a restaurant in the city, a place where you could get hamburgers.

My mind went back to when my husband and I first went overseas. We had been married for a year and a half and had a four-month-old baby.  Other children followed, and soon we were raising a flock of third culture kids.  Our kids traveled the globe with us, learned how to bargain in Arabic, and negotiated friendships with kids from all over the world. My parents had done the same with me. My earliest memories included eating spicy curry with my hands, hearing the call to prayer every morning as I woke, and bazaars full of spice and flavor.

In those moments of watching those kids and thinking about my own life, I thought many things. And one of them was this:  “This TCK thing is real. I don’t care what any naysayer says – these kids are not growing up like their peers in their passport country. This is real, and we need to honor it.”

And the next thing I thought is that one way to honor the kids is to honor their parents.

You are living a different life. It is not more special, or godlier, but it is different. You are raising your kids overseas, counter-culture to what many of your peers are doing in your home countries. Your daily life does not look the same as those of your friends in the United States, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany or any number of places that you call home. The experiences of your kids will include exposure to languages, foods, people, and events that you did not experience until you moved overseas. God authored a call on your life and you responded, even though that call includes many things that you could never have anticipated.

As I think about honoring parents in their journey, I remember the painting of the shepherd and the words of Isaiah come to my mind: “He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd, He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them, in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

So on this day, this is my prayer for you, for you who are with young, for you who are raising young in a life overseas.

God sees those dark-haired or tow-headed kids of yours, and he calls them ‘good.’ He sees your marriage and it has his stamp of approval, his seal of protection on it. He sees your family, and he hears your prayers. He hears the echoes of joy and the screams of pain in your home. He knows universal heartache and pain, and he knows your personal heartache and pain. He authored your call, and he sustains you with grace. He won’t give you grace for your imagination, that’s not what he is about. Our God will give you grace for the real thing, what we call reality. He knows the fellow workers who you can’t stand, and those who you love, and he loves and cares for all of them. He has begun a good work, and he will be faithful to complete it. He, the good shepherd, will gently lead you. He is “utterly trustworthy and completely unpredictable.” 

Today, wherever you are in the world, may you feel the presence of the God who gently leads those who are with young.  Amen and Amen.

Author’s note: To hear the words from Isaiah as a song click here. 

When You Have to be Carried

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By Erin Duplechin

I’m in the middle of the Papua New Guinean jungle.  And I’m freezing.  Thin top sheets are piled on top of me and my daughter’s small, square blanket, but it’s not enough.  There wasn’t a reason to bring thick blankets.  Though skin is like fire, I shiver and teeth chatter.  Body hurts; joints, muscles, I ache all over.  My stomach does flips over and over again and it’s all I can do to pry myself out of bed to walk outside to the pit toilet.

I lie there, eyes closed tight, hoping just to sleep through the worst of it.  When my husband joins me later, he wraps arms around me, legs around me, trying to spread warmth.

The nurse had spoken it that night: malaria.  The sickness that scares those who aren’t familiar with it.

It’s our last day in the village.  Tomorrow we leave.  This isn’t how I wanted to say goodbye.  How can I say all the things I wanted to say?

Morning comes, I can still barely move.  Our village house is packed up about me, my children in the arms of their brown-skinned sisters.  The world around me has blurred.

The news comes that the truck has arrived to pick us up.  It’s a fifteen minute walk away that starts with a large, steep hill.  I pray for the strength to make it to the truck.  I get out of bed, my village mama helping me.

They give me a staff to lean on, but after only a minute or two the staff isn’t enough and I must lie down on the dirt and grass.

Every ounce of strength has left me.

Hands pick me up, guiding to the path.  The dark-skinned man comes toward me.  He isn’t much taller than me, a Highlands man.  On his head, the grey hair far outnumbers the black.  He is the papa of brown and white skins- my papa.  He bends down in front of me, the women help me sit in to him.  I wrap weak arms around his neck.  He lifts up his white daughter.

We climb the hill in front of us.  His breathing heavies, but he doesn’t stop.

We make it to the top of the hill, he gently sets me down.  Mama is there to pick up the slack.  The two of them come on either side me, each pulling an arm over their necks, putting their arms around my waist.  We move slow, easy.  They keep pace with me, letting me rest when I need to, holding up my frail body.

Finally we see the truck and soon I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat, eyes closed again.  I can’t say goodbye like I want to.  Mama finds my hand again.  Tears brim and spill, and I pray they speak while my voice remains silent.  Papa too, his hand grabs mine and squeezes.  Brown and white, embraced and melded.

There are other times I’ve felt this way, weak and immobile.  Times when the body’s strong, but the heart feels feeble.  Times when uncertainty comes quick: I don’t know if I can do this.  But always, always, Papa comes.  I lean in to him, and he carries me.  Arms of strength, arms of love. 

I think of the Shepherd.  He lets me rest in green meadows; He renews my strength.  He brings me to His banqueting table, laden with the finest and richest of fare, His love banner flying high.  And I think of how he carries his sheep in his arms.

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

He will carry the lambs in his arms,

Holding them close to his heart.”

Isaiah 40:11

And when He left the ninety-nine and the one was found, did he not, with great delight, carry him on his shoulders?

“And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”Luke 15:5

I am learning, for really the first time in my life, that my strength is not enough.  And it never will be.  That weakness is a gift.  That I must give way to the journey; that I must give thanks for the process.  Surrender in its purest form: giving thanks in all circumstances.  I am learning. 

I’m learning to give thanks for spilled milk, and messes, and yes, even malaria.  For what a joy to be carried in sickness.  What a joy to feel physical healing.  What a joy to know when skin shivers and body aches that the Son Himself shared in sufferings greater and more painful.  So, right now I say thank you, Jesus; You are wonderful in all your ways.

Give me the Good Shepherd, the Papa of the flock, my Care-giver and Keeper on High.  For He is familiar with my ways and knows me deep and wide.  And when I suffer or stray, his arms find me.

I wrap puny arms tight.  His breathing  isn’t heavy, it’s slow, patient.  I lean in now, giving way to the weakness, finding His warmth.

When have you had to be carried? 

 

Erin is a missionary wife and mama of two living in Papua New Guinea. Before moving overseas, she served as a worship leader and continues singing and writing songs abroad. She writes regularly about God and jungle life at erinduplechin.com