I remember riding the bus along 125th Street during my sophomore year at Columbia. A girl my age sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. She seemed awkward and shy, yet intentional. Kind and determined.
Within just a few blocks we had moved from talking about the best pizza near campus to questions of faith and friends. She invited me to a meeting she was going to later that night. She seemed so excited to befriend me that I truly was anxious to go. We all want to be wanted, don’t we? To feel special enough that someone says, “Wow, I really want to get to know you and to be your friend!”
But something just wasn’t right. She was saying all the right things, but the intensity of her words did not match the content of the conversation. And, though I was no religious scholar, her theology seemed a little off. As time and persistent phone calls would later reveal, she was part of a cult that actively pursued underclassmen attending college away from home, counting on their loneliness and desire to make friends to lure them into the group.
There are many voices out there that pretend to be the shepherd, that count on us to be easily led like sheep. But only one shepherd will lay down his life for us. Only one shepherd will give all that he has to recover the one that was lost.
I am grateful that I knew enough of my shepherd’s voice to distinguish it from the voice of one who beckoned me to follow but didn’t love me as he does.
What voices in your life try to manipulate your need or your fear?
God, help us to hear your voice above all others. Forgive us when we follow those who make us promises, but ultimately lead us away from you. Amen.