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Sheepdog Faith

By Mike Mccauley on
Mike Mccauley
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Aug 23 in Musings
Evelyn Underhill was an Anglican Christian in England who was born in 1875 and died in 1941. A prolific and profoundly intelligent writer of novels, poetry and theology, Underhill was what some would call a “mystic.”  Her deep faith, also reflected in invitations to lecture on spirituality at Oxford and through correspondence with many people, was partially expressed in powerful visions, symbols and experiences. 
 
Underhill’s book The Ways of the Spirit was published after her death. A scholar researching her life discovered four handwritten retreat addresses buried among other manuscripts. In one of them, she wrote about a relationship with God in these words:
“Consider it like this. You have offered yourselves, one way or another, to try to work for God. You want, as it were, to be one among the sheepdogs employed by the Good Shepherd. Now, have you ever watched a good sheepdog at his work?  He is not at all an emotional animal. He just goes on with his job quite steadily, takes no notice of bad weather, rough ground, or his own comfort.  He seldom or never comes back to be stroked.  Yet his faithfulness, his intimate understanding with his master, is one of the loveliest things in the world. Now and then he just looks at the shepherd. When the time comes for rest they can generally be found together.  Let this be the model of our love.”

I was struck, when I first read this, by Underhill’s description of an intimate relationship with God. Instead of getting shallow vocabulary that we hear frequently in both culture and church like “spectacular, attention-grabbing, life-changing, exciting, amazing, new!” we find the language of steadiness, faithfulness and consistency.  It’s calming simply to read the words.

I don’t know much about sheepdogs. But I do know I get tired of receiving emails from Christian ministries filled with exclamation points and touting the next great thing that will utterly revolutionize my faith. There’s a certain frantic edge to it.  But if I can have a deep understanding of the Lord, slowly built up in spite of obstacles and my own weaknesses, if I can keep looking at Jesus, and be found in his presence...that’s more than enough for me. Sheepdog faith. It has a nice ring to it.
 
   See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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