“My sheep know my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10: 27–28

On Sunday the fifth, I stayed home. Which felt slightly unspiritual considering the season we, as a church, are in. The recent gift of acreage, the breathless awe of all God has in store for us, and that through us, He has added a new dimension to Willow Huntley. An anticipation. Meetings are scheduled, messages prepared, material printed, prayers prayed, dreams enlarged. Everything seems possible. And I am in. All in.

And yet lately, in the midst of all the sound, well-intentioned conversations and teaching, the rich timbre of my Shepherd had begun to fade. Dormant desires rattled around in my heart, making all sorts of racket, leaving me desperate and hungry. The desire to please, to live up to perceived expectations, to be viewed as spiritual enough, generous enough, good enough, worthy enough.

Caught up in the excitement and energy of the possibilities of HOME, I didn’t at first notice the way my thoughts had begun to tilt towards a particular person or group, when considering my part. In fact, the decision to give financially came without much effort at all, which I took as proof of my gratitude to the One who’d given so much for me. But as time went on, an unease began to settle in my soul. Thoughts of those I hoped to please rose in my head more often than not. And I knew. It was time for some space. And quiet.

And so I stayed home. I wish I weren’t so susceptible to the temptation to heed the wrong voices, to misconstrue. I wish that what I knew in my head were strong enough to dismantle that which seeks to overtake my heart. But I don’t think I’m alone. We all have hollows in our souls that make us greedy for recognition, shadows that taint our perspectives, hurts that make us suspicious, guarded, and afraid, painting our Heavenly Father as a stingy parent who offers love to only those who pay enough for it.

The serpent still slithers. Even in the lush landscape of this miraculous gift of sixty-five acres. He seems to have a penchant for gardens. And we must be on guard. Alert to voices that entice us to please, to perform, to suggest our God will not provide, will not come through, will not be pleased, that His love must be bought. In our struggle to surrender all we are and have—our hearts, our devotion, our time, our money—we can be sure the volume will be turned up on these desires, as well as past hurts, divisions, and betrayals. Our enemy is a cruel and cunning adversary. Ready to steal joy, to twist even the most joyful of seasons into torment. But he cannot win. Our God will not be thwarted.

This God we serve is a Father who is enough. Who is full of compassion. One who understands our weaknesses, who sees our struggles, who wipes our brows, mindful of each battle-born bruise. One who beckons with nail-pierced hands, who invites us to participate but never to pay our way. What He offers cannot be bought. He is a Shepherd who longs to lighten our burdens. This is what I know to be true as I sit snuggled beneath a throw. Alone and apart, the other voices grow dim. My heart begins to hear again.  “My sheep know my voice,” my Shepherd says. And I do. In the quiet, I recognize the texture and timbre of a Love who won’t let go, who leads me beside still waters, who restores my soul and speaks truth, who provides green pastures, sixty-five acres of them.

“Come unto me,” He invites. “All you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In the quiet of this Sunday morning, with my ear bent intentionally toward Him, I don’t need to be asked twice. Here in this space, I feel neither requirement nor any need to perform but, rather, an invitation to experience all my Father has in store. For me and through me. He invites me. And I am all in.