"let me live near to the Great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its call." The Valley of Vision
A heart snapshot given me by the Lord many years ago was of
a sheep following so closely to the Shepherd that it was almost underfoot. This sheep demanded every moment of the shepherd's attention and was most happy and at peace when cradled in the arms of the shepherd. "THIS is what I want you to be like", He said.
Jesus is my shepherd. He is out in front leading His sheep. Within every flock there are some sheep who stay close to the Shepherd and others that follow but from further away. There are sheep that love the sheperd and stay close. There are sheep that follow because of what he provides. There are sheep who follow because they have to and there are sheep who wander and get lost.
Those who follow farther from the shepherd are more inclined to wander, be distracted, and to be the ones the wolves and bears attack first. The wolves and bears are fearful of the Shepherd, but no the the sheep. So they will attack as far from the shepherd as they can, to snatch a asheep and then run away with their prey.
Sheep who follow the shepherd from farther away may not always hear his voice, or when they do, they won't hear the tone of his voice. They may miss the urgency by which he calls them. They may miss when he is encouraging them to reach a place of goodness.
It is true that following closely to the shepherd may mean that I can't stop and look around, or stay a little longer at something in my surroundings that catches my eye's fancy, or frolick and fool around with my friends. It may mean I miss everything around me but the back of his legs and the path of his feet, especially if he is hurrying to get out of an impending storm, away from a perceived danger or to a place where he knows there is fresh food and drink that I am in need of.
Following afar off is not good. Peter followed Jesus from afar on that fateful night of his arrest. He was curious. He was following because of the affection he had for Christ, but was not really willing to follow Christ into the danger that he knew lay ahead for Jesus. By following from afar, he was victim to the fear of man, and he was left alone to his own fears, weaknesses and humaness. He followed from afar and ended up denying Christ 3 times.
Lord, I want to follow you, closely, to be right on your heels. To hear every word you utter, every call you extend, every invitation you bestow to come and be even closer to you. To lay at your feet, to enter your fold, to be healed by your hand, to be cared for by your expert wisdom, to be led to your table and the provision you provide and to sit in your arms and know the life sacrificing love you have for me.
Keep me close to you, Lord, as slose as is possible and when I start to stray, reach out with your staff and pull me back in, close to you. No danger can befall, no enemy devour, no sickness overtake, no poverty destroy when I am on your heels following you wherever you lead.