In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller gives the following example:
When he started as a shepherd in the Rocky Mountains, he was unaware of the dangers his sheep faced from predators. One morning he found that cougars had killed 9 of his sheep.
From that day on, he slept with a rifle and a flashlight next to his bed. As he described it: “At the least sound of the flock being disturbed, I would leap from bed and, calling my faithful collie, dash out into the night, ready to protect my sheep.
Over the course of time, I realized that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do.
Jesus said that we are his sheep, and that nothing can snatch us out of his hand. He is always ready to protect us and to lead us to true life. And that certainty of being infinitely loved by God is the source of our joy.
This description by Philip Keller really makes vivid for us the whole point of why Christ chose this image of shepherd to try and illustrate for us how much the Lord wants to be a part of our life. He wants us to think about him throughout the course of the day, to make us aware that he is with us in everything that we do.
There’s a very very beautiful spiritual practice developed by a French Carmelite monk by the name of Brother Lawrence. He lived in a monastery in Paris in the late 17th century. He had been a soldier, not well educated. He experienced a religious conversion when he was 18 years old. This spirituality he came to realize is called The Practice of the Presence of God. A writer describes it this way: “It is the simple essence of living, moving, and having our being in God in every present moment, wherever we find ourselves, whatever we are doing. This connects very closely with the idea the Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Through Brother Lawrence we understand that God is available in ordinary life, in the commonest of places and most mundane activities. Lawrence’s job in the monastery was cook and sandal maker. We can see how he might have developed this view from the ordinariness of his daily tasks.
At the heart of the Practice of the Presence of God are thanks and trust. And what this all basically comes down to is to say short thank you prayers throughout the course of the day. Thank you for getting me to work on time, for letting me make that green light, for allowing a certain situation to work out better than I thought it would. I think you get the idea. And when you face problems you entrust them to Christ—give your problems over to the Lord. But you really have to do that. When we panic in the course of the day, we are actually pushing Christ away, or at least we are leaving him out of it, and Jesus wants to be a part of what we are going through.
This all sounds almost childish, but it isn’t. And the trick is to remember to do it. The more you remember this in the course of the day, the more you will find yourself feeling at peace.
Just as the modern day shepherd wrote that the most calming thing for his sheep was to see him there with them. Christ wants it to be the same way with us. That he is a calming presence in our life—throughout the day.
So, in this age of high anxiety and complications, try The Practice of the Presence of God. You’ll be surprised what an effect it can have in your life. Say short prayers throughout the course of the day. Prayers of thanks and prayers of trust. Feel at peace that your Shepherd is with you through it all.