"I myself will tend my sheep and have them lay down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak..." (Ezekiel 34:15-16a)
In the photograph we can see the youth of the lamb. Perhaps he's still enjoying his adventure away from the others, but we can begin to see fear creep into its face. He feels lost and alone. He doesn't understand what's going on. He's looking around and doesn't see his mom. We know the Shepherd has a more aerial view, and can see the rest of the flock in the distance. He can bring the little lamb back.
Once I read the verse in Ezekiel, I thought about the common association the Christian community has with lamb and lost. It's probably because most verses deal with salvation (Psalm 119:176, Isaiah 53:6-7, Matthew 25:32). We have all heard that God "searches for the lost and brings back the strays," that He rejoices in the one found sheep (Matthew 18:12-13). The metaphor is usually used with evangelical undertones. However, the verse continues to say he "will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak." I myself don't think of him as a Shepherd often when I'm still in the flock.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:1-4)
There's no mention of being lost. Read it again, closely, especially if you've heard it before. The Shepherd is actually "with me". I feel with God right now- maybe not 48 hours ago, but yes, now. I had run ahead of the shepherd, and I'll be back in that green valley one day, but next time with His presence and blessing.
What I'm dealing with now is missing the valley. It is a good valley- why not go now? Why do the other sheep insist on sticking around here for so long? That is my valley. However, I hold onto the faith that my Shepherd knows what he's doing- and has the power to guide those sheep too, if he feels it's best. No matter how amazing that valley is (for it really is), it's not worth being there without my Shepherd.
Photograph by Matt Blakemore, http://www.flickr.com/photos/simpologist/142876597/in/set-1587781/ . Creative Commons licence: Attribution and Non-commercial.