Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Me

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jesus_lamb_brownYesterday, between the 8:30 and 11:00 worship services, I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the church and knocked on the door of the Lambs Sunday school class.  “May I come in?” I asked.  I hadn’t made an appointment, and I hadn’t been invited, but I thought if anyone would let the pastor drop in unannounced it would be the Lambs. 

I was right.

This is a class for developmentally delayed adults, and when I went in on Sunday I found four students and three helpers working at a table in the middle of the room.  Three of these students are brothers, born into the same family.  And while the doctors would tell you that it’s rare to have a developmentally delayed child they would also tell you it’s impossible to have three.  But there they were on Sunday—the Haymans brothers: Joe, Chris, and Bruce.  They seemed glad to see me.  Thrilled, actually.  I can’t remember when I’ve had a more enthusiastic welcome. 

I sat down next to Bruce and tried to help him find “Joshua” in a word search.  The class was studying leaders and they had talked about the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua.  Bruce was looking for the letter “J” on the page and marking it carefully each time he found one.  With a little help he was able to see how some of those J’s connected to O-S-H-U and A.  As I looked around the table I could see that all of the students were being helped by patient and gentle volunteers. 

While we were working Chris told me it was his birthday, and when I congratulated him and asked him how old he was he held up five fingers.  Chris is a good bit older than that, but he seemed as excited about his birthday as any five-year-old.  He went over to the table against the wall to show me the birthday cake someone had brought, and when I left a little while later he was still staring at it like you might stare at your true love, his elbows propped up on the table, his face in his hands.

Later that day I drove out to Midlothian to visit with Bruce and Debbie Leary, and to meet Jeffrey, someone I’d been hearing about for weeks.  Jeffrey has special needs of his own.  The doctors said he wouldn’t live to be 20 but here he is, nearly twice that, thanks to the round-the-clock care, the obvious affection, and the loud, smacking kisses of his loving family.  Jeffrey seemed to recognize me right away from seeing me on television and insisted that I “talk” while I was there, which I did, just enough to satisfy him that I was the same person he had been hearing on Sunday mornings.  Later the Learys told me Jeffrey’s whole story, and while it was clear that caring for him wasn’t always easy, it was also clear that caring for him was one of the greatest joys of their lives.

Before I left, Bruce gave me a framed drawing of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms.  He said it was his favorite picture of Jesus, and I could see why.  There was our Lord and Savior, burying his face in the soft wool of a helpless lamb, holding it close, as if nothing were more precious to him.  And I thought about those “lambs” I had met that day—Joe and Bruce and Chris and Jeffrey—and how precious they are to Jesus, too. 

I hadn’t really planned to visit that Sunday school class yesterday, on the same day I was visiting the Learys.  I don’t know what moved me to do it.  But if I had to guess I would guess it was Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leading me to look in on some of his lambs.

3 thoughts on “Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Me

  1. Jim, I had the privilege of hosting such a class in my first pastorate and I have missed them ever since. I started to say they “humanized” that church, which they did, but even more, they “Christianized” that church…One of the mentally disabled adults made a profession of faith every Sunday morning…I thought it was “cute” at first, but later I began to realize that perhaps all of us need the same kind of regular “confessing” of our faith….so they “Christianized” this pastor as well….

    thanks for a great article…

    roger paynter

  2. Thirty years ago I taught the Lambs class. Now every Sunday I receive hellos and hugs. What a wonderful way to start my worship experience with a chat with Chris, Bruce, Joe, and Frieda each Sunday morning. I recently was able to visit Bruce when he was in the hospital. Annually the Lambs class goes to Eagle Eyrie in the fall for fun and fellowship and this year the theme was Nasscar. I know great times and memories were made.
    Barbara Johnson

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