Jn 10:11-18 Jesus said:"I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own,sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd,and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."
This has always been one of my most favorite readings. I want to tell you a story about an experience in my life that allowed me to know...within my very soul what this passage means.
When I was in my early 20's, I was introduced to the Christian Music scene. At that time (mid to late 80's), the popular musicians were...Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kim Hill, Randy Stonehill, Twila Paris and Sandi Patti just to name a few. Michael W. Smith was one of my favorites. And so, some friends and I got tickets to one of his concerts in Oakland (Ca). Well, just a few days before the concert, the big Loma Prieta earthquake happened in the Bay Area (10/17/89). Because the integrity of the Oakland Coliseum could not be assessed in time for the concert, the venue was changed to the Berkeley Community Theatre which is much, much smaller. Anyway....there was an opening act for Smitty...and her name was Margaret Becker. I think by the end of the evening...I enjoyed Margaret's music and message much more than MWS.
A friend made some copies of her tapes for me...and I was hooked! Her music literally changed my life! She had an intimacy with God that I wanted...badly. God used her songs to ignite a fire in me that is still burning to this day. I listened to those tapes over and over again until I had to buy new ones because the old ones had worn out! I went to every single one of her concerts! If she was signing CD's at a christian bookstore the day of the concert....I was there! Wherever she was...I was! I read everything I could about her. I had every magazine interview, every video she had ever made. I would stay up until midnight to watch the Christian music hour on the Nashville station and tape it whenever she was on. I didn't know it then, but it was almost idol worshipping. I guess I had this idea that because of the songs that she wrote and sang....that she was this perfect christian seeking the Lord 24 hours a day! I mean, intellectually, I knew she wasn't "perfect", but I just wanted whatever it was that she had.
One year, Billy Graham came to Sacramento and I found out that Margaret Becker was going to be playing/singing during his crusade. I planned for weeks about how I would go every night of the crusade (just to hear her...I wasn't that into Billy Graham). I would go early in the day to assure a good seat and to make sure I could see her bus come in. On the first day....some friends and I were there very early so we just hung around in the parking lot. We were eating lunch in the car.....and then I heard it! It was one note, one strum of the guitar, one tiny little sound....and I started running! She was doing a sound check outside, just yards from where we were parked! Yep, sure enough, there she was singing her little heart out and I was in heaven!
Later that night, while I was laying in bed, I heard another Voice...only this time it was in my heart. The Voice said, "Nancy, you can recognize Margaret's voice anywhere! You can pick her voice out of any song, any commercial jingle, on the radio or even in a taped interview.....you know her voice as if it were a part of you.....but.....do you know Mine"?
It hit me like a ton of bricks. My heart skipped a beat and I realized that no...I did not recognize the voice of God the way I should. I was so wrapped up in Margaret and her relationship with God...that I totally threw aside my own relationship. Did I know God at all?
Could I recognize Him in the people around me, in the actions of others? Did I see Him in me?
I realized that I needed to know Him....inside and out. I needed to be so familiar with Him that when trouble came, I knew who to follow. We needed a relationship...a real one. Not one that I lived through someone elses experiences.
To this day, every time I hear this Gospel...I smile. I smile because this was the time when I finally understood that He is my Shepherd. I am His and He is mine. I hear His voice. I know
him. There is an intimacy there that was not there before. There is a comfort there that I will never let go of.
I hope you don't mind me sharing this. This was a very hard, lonely and challenging time in my life. I was struggling with things of the world and things of the spirit. I can say with assurance that God used Margaret Becker's music to draw me to Himself. For that, I will forever be thankful. Incidentally, here is the song that grabbed my heart. It's called All I Ever Wanted.