“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

What child has not heard that query and what young person has not pondered its implications?

Ein Hirtenknabe by Franz von Lenbach

To a child the options seem nearly limitless. We smile at the enthusiasm of the bright-eyed little boy who, clomping around in his favorite boots, dreams of becoming a cowboy one day, only to inform us the very next day that he is going to be an astronaut instead. We smile recalling our own childish dreams and fancies. But, as that little boy scampers off to try his hand at stargazing, we are reminded that life is big and complicated, not unlike the vast universe he is trying to glimpse through his tiny telescope.

Life’s path, which seemed straightforward as a child, now twists and turns. Hopes are dashed and cherished dreams lie shattered in the dust. How can we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives now as we stand bewildered at the dead end to which our lives seem to have come? We are in desperate need of a shepherd–the Shepherd–to guide us through the chaos and lead us in His perfect path.

The Lord is my Shepherd…He leadeth me.

Several years ago my own path took a sharp turn. The bright green meadow, the idyllic pastureland to which I had been heading, was suddenly barred before me. “No Trespassing!” glared the sign on the imposing barricade.

“How can this be?” I wondered in shocked disbelief. “The path has been arduous, but the hope of soon reaching this bright meadow had spurred me on. Now that I am here, entrance is denied me?” With reeling mind and aching heart I frantically examined the fence line, “Surely this is a mistake! There must be a way in.”

“Keep Out! Violators Will Be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law” was the stern rejoinder.

I lifted my tear-stained face and bleary eyes to the Shepherd. “Did I mistake the path? I thought this was the way You were leading me.”

With deep compassion His nailed scarred hand pointed to the dark, rugged track veering off to my right.

“No! Not that way!” the tears began to stream again. “It is too dark and lonely a path. The rocks are jagged, the cliffs sheer, and the wind fierce. Why am I denied entrance into this beautiful, peaceful meadow? Was it my disobedience and unbelief as I followed the path to this point?” I fell on my knees, confessing my sin, pleading for the Shepherd’s forgiveness.

Lovingly He assured me of His complete forgiveness—He Himself had paid the penalty for my sin. His deep scars bore eloquent testimony.

My eyes turned again to the bright meadow. Bird song drifted from beyond the fence. Tall, lush grass rippled in the gentle breeze. The happy gurgle of a brook echoed just out of sight. “Why may I not enter this joyful haven?”

Slowly He shook His head and again pointed to the treacherous path. “This is the way you must go. Do not fear. I will never leave you or forsake you. You must simply trust and obey.”

I wept and pleaded, but His answer did not change. Finally, with heavy heart and weary feet, I yielded to His will.

Time has lessened the sting of the initial blow. Distance has given clearer perspective. Although I do not fully understand the leading of my Shepherd—questions still haunt my mind on occasion—I know His way is best. In faithfulness He is leading me.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” Psalm 23.

What glorious hope is offered in that 23rd Psalm! The Lord Himself leads His sheep. He leads me, and, if you are a member of His fold (John 10:27-28), He leads you.

Recently I encountered another bright meadow, more beautiful than the first. Again the way was barred. I trust my Shepherd. By His grace He is teaching me to say:

“My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.

Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law.

I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.

I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!

I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart” Psalm 119:28-32.

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.