Too often I realize that part of this bleakness is because the words are painfully familiar. I read of the Israelites turning to idol worship and I begin to wag my finger and click my tongue, only to catch my reflection in the mirror and blush in shame. I find myself in Ezekiel 33:32 which reads, ". . . they hear your words but do not put them into practice . . ." and the blush on my cheeks deepens to scarlet.
I was further convicted as I read Ezekiel 34:2 this morning: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?" And I see myself as a mother, tempted to listen to the world, which tells me to look out for number one, to have it my way, to focus on myself . . . all to the detriment of my lambs.
I pause, discouraged. Why is this so hard?
Whenever I fill out the "occupation" line on various forms, I write homemaker. This morning I thought about this -- this making of a home. To make something requires vision, action, and dedication. As I "make" my home, I need to look ahead, to plan. I need to have a vision. But having a vision is not enough. Choosing a recipe for chocolate cake is not the same as making a chocolate cake. This is where the action comes in. Making requires effort. I need to pull out those ingredients and mix them together. And then the hard part: dedication. Of course it's easy with chocolate cake. I'm not likely to give up while my KitchenAid is spinning it's yumminess or to stop just short of putting it in the oven. I want to eat that cake. So I complete my work.
So it is with making a home. I must complete my work. I must be dedicated to the vision, which will be shown in my actions. (A friend of mine recently encouraged me to remember an important key when raising children: consistency!)
But when I'm discouraged, when I want to stop, this causes me to wonder if I'm starting to rely on my own strength. Have I sought the true Shepherd as I tend to my little flock? Is my vision His vision? Are my actions His actions? Is my dedication a dedication to Him . . . or to myself and my own plans?
And the Shepherd faithfully gathers His wayward lamb -- the lamb struggling on that cliff and bleating so pathetically -- and speaks in comforting tones:
I myself will search for my sheep and look after them . . . I will tend them in a good pasture . . .
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays . . . I will bless them . . . I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
Ezekiel 34: 11 - 26
Not only does He do this for me, but He does this for my family, too. He is a Shepherd to the heart of my husband, and He is a Shepherd to the heart of my children.
Which means that I can totally handle this homemaking thing; the Shepherd has asked me to do it and He and He alone will provide the strength to see it through. And what's more? He's given me a beautiful promise: There will be showers of blessing.
I pull my cake out of the oven, its aroma filling our home, and the bright-eyed children come running.