Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the pile of things I need to get done. Okay – truth be told – it’s a bit more often than sometimes. More often than not, I feel guilty. Guilty because I can’t do the extra 100 things it takes to be the “perfect” mom. Guilty because by the time my husband gets home from work, I’m worn out from the emotional highs and lows of the small humans I’m raising and not as fresh and attentive as I want to be. Guilty because I forget birthdays, and don’t keep track of friends as well as I want to. Guilty because I can’t serve more. Guilty because at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’m enough.
Because of that guilt, I keep pushing. Trying harder. Giving more. Even when there isn’t anything left.
In the secret places of my heart, I’ve believed that God doesn’t think I’m enough either. I’ve had the fear that when He tallies up my chart, His thoughts aren’t “well done.” They are more like, “You should have done more. Why haven’t you led anyone to Jesus this year? Points deducted for yelling at your kids and not being grateful for what I’ve given you. You should be doing more with what I’ve given you.”
I think that’s why I almost cried when I read this passage.
“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 NIV
He Gently Leads Us
He gently leads those that have young. Gently. My hard-driving, task-oriented personality doesn’t know how to handle that. Gently. He isn’t concerned about how much I produce. He’s concerned about me. He tends my life like a shepherd.
Psalm 23 talks a bit more about His Shepherd heart. He leads us to the places where we can be nourished, refreshed, and near to Him. Not all of them look pretty (who wants to go through the valley of the shadow of death?) but He is with us.
My responses of guilt and overwhelm come from a place of being driven by fear. I try to perform to be enough because I’m afraid of falling short. Our Shepherd desires to lead us from the place of being fully loved and accepted. In His way, what I do comes out of the fact that I’m already loved and treasured – so it is just overflow.
Jesus talks about how His way of doing things is easy or light (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s not the heaviness of not being enough or having to perform more. It’s the lightness of already being approved of and deeply loved before I do anything.
Follow the Shepherd
So what does this look like in practical application? Believe me, I’m still learning. But what I’m finding is that being led by our Shepherd doesn’t mean that we stop work. It means our heart motivation is different. We do things from the place of already being loved and accepted rather than being driven by fear and lack to try to be enough.
This is hardest for me when my checklist doesn’t look like God’s heart. His priorities are many times different from mine. I may still make my checklist, but I’m learning to surrender it and use it as a loose guide rather than a task master. I may look at my list, but will pause before I dive in and ask the Lord what His priorities are for the next thing I need to do.
Sometimes He’s good with me knocking out the next item. Other times, I sense a simple re-direction. Sometimes, it will be a heart-check. I’ll hear the gentle whisper, “Who are you trying to impress with your clean house? Go play with your kids for a little while.” Other times it might be the gentle prompting to pursue a relationship – that ends up being a link in the next thing God wants to do in my life or in someone else’s life.
Do What He Is Doing
Jesus gave us a beautiful example in His life. He said in John 5:19 that He did what He saw the Father doing. We have the same privilege. We can ask God what He is up to today and we can join Him. How beautiful is that! I don’t have the responsibility for making things happen. I have the responsibility to show up and follow my Shepherd with what He is up to today. It may be knocking out some things on the to-do list I have today, or it may be following some divine interruptions where heaven desires to touch earth.
In that place of surrender – where I’m not trying to prove my worth – there is peace. His leading nourishes and refreshes my soul. In that place, I know I’m loved and He is caring for me. Next to the greatness of His leading and care, my overwhelming guilt list looks a whole lot smaller. I hear the gentle whisper of my shepherd saying, “You’re enough through what I’ve done. Just take the next step. Don’t worry about the whole pile. Just follow me.”