Recently, I shared that my word for the year is remain arising out of Jesus’ metaphor of the branch and the vine and that I began to realize that God has been dropping other similar metaphors like breadcrumbs for me to follow. One of those breadcrumbs is the image of a buoy and another is the image of a tree. This week, I’d like to share another breadcrumb: the image of a shepherd who uses both goads and nails to guide us.
One of the biblical images that participated in my call to attend seminary arose from a completely unrelated conversation with an unsuspecting family member as we sat together at the holiday dinner table.
The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. – Ecclesiastes 12:11, emphasis added
How odd, I have often reflected since that first conversation, how contradictory that the shepherd is depicted as giving both goads that provoke and stimulate movement and nails that eliminate movement. The shepherd drives us out of one place toward another and at the same time firmly embeds us in place.
This season of transition has lasted so long that it has become more of a lifestyle, a way of being in the world. In these past years, I have often felt myself on the receiving end of the spiked stick urging me onward, and in the midst of the constant transition, I have longed for a nail to hold me in place. Instead of just waiting for the time when I can settle down in one location, I am beginning to notice the ways God has been inviting me to remain in the midst of the transition.
I am beginning to recognize that these breadcrumbs have both drawn me further along the path and kept me firmly on it. Maybe being embedded isn’t about staying in one place but about staying on one path, remaining oriented in one direction: onward.
The Invitation to Remain
And so, my fellow pilgrims, I continue to pray that we would all have the strength of heart and the gentle attention necessary to remain in God’s love no matter what obstacles we encounter on our journey homeward.
As we walk this way together awhile, I’m curious: what keeps you firmly embedded? In what are you being invited to remain?