Fourth Sunday of Easter: A reflection

by Kimberlyn Kettles, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Ministry Team Leader

begin quote"Tomorrow will probably look much like today, but September looks incredibly blurry. As I’ve prayed and slowed down to process this, I’ve noticed I have been craving constancy in a deeper way."
This is, no doubt, a super strange time to be alive. There has been some level of disorienting change for every student, faculty, and staff member at USD, whether it has meant packing up a dorm room and moving back in with mom, or making a rapid switch to teaching on Zoom. It feels paradoxical that in this new season nearly every day feels the same, and yet there is still a looming sense of unease because of how uncertain the future feels. Tomorrow will probably look much like today, but September looks incredibly blurry. As I’ve prayed and slowed down to process this, I’ve noticed I have been craving constancy in a deeper way.
Something I have heard a lot and wrestled with personally is the longing for a “return to normal," which is really to say, going back to the way things were earlier this spring. It is easy to continue waiting on the edge of our seats for some kind of announcement, so that we can communally exhale and go back to business as usual. However, it is becoming increasingly likely that “going back” is not going to be the case. 
When life becomes disorienting, either by crisis or change, we find great comfort in returning to familiar things, for better or worse. We make longer phone calls with family, we rewatch nostalgic movies, or increase our time scrolling through an Instagram stream of the same faces at different angles. Familiar things can be good or bad for us, but regardless, we tend to go back to them. Disorientation and discomfort make us long for the familiar.  
As Christians, and really, as humans, we have a deep longing within ourselves for the constancy of God’s presence and voice. It’s the most steadying force in the universe, and for some of us, roots back to childhood and has grown up with us. In today’s reading from John 10, Jesus explains He is a good shepherd. As His little flock, we each have in us this keen ability to hear His voice distinct from any other sound. He speaks with this ultra-familiar voice and says He comes so that the sheep who respond to Him can “have life and have it to the full!” In Psalm 23 we also see God as a good shepherd, helping His flock lay down in a lush, grassy field by peaceful water, refreshing their souls, protecting them from threats, and guiding them toward a thriving life with Him. He is the best most familiar thing we can turn to.
And yet, the picture painted by the beginning of this Psalm is not always how life feels. I am sure we can all agree that our lives are subject to incredible change. Anything can be stripped away from us, changed without our consent, or unfairly altered despite our struggles to maintain control. However, I am more sure than ever because of how many times He has proven it to me and people throughout history, that God Himself does not change. His character, message, and commitment to make wrong things right again remain the same. He always keeps His promises, and His reassuring voice rings out clearly over all the other noises. It is in this rock-steady constancy that we can reliably put all our clingy energy. Everything in our being longs to cling to something that will remain steady, soothe us, know and accept us, provide for and protect us, love us. But the uncomfortable truth is that nothing can as consistently and faithfully love us this way as God Himself can. 
This is why the second half of the Psalm can be just as true as the first. We are freed up to trust our Good Shepherd because He provides for and cares for us. When danger comes, we know He won’t suddenly change and abandon us. This is where real hope comes from. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” He is with us protecting us in the midst of scary things. We are free to stare reality in the face and trust our God will not leave us. 
Wherever you find yourself and your family in this season, I pray the familiar words of Psalm 23 over you today. I pray the Lord would be your Good Shepherd, helping you rest and be restored in this uncommonly slow time. I pray He would protect you when real threats come toward you. I pray you would hear His voice and return to the familiarity of his compassionate presence. Lastly, I pray you would allow Him to do the delicate work of helping you imagine a new normal for yourself, this world, and our community at USD.  


Sandee Gutierrez

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