When we ponder the eternities, what is it that we see? A similar question came up in priesthood on Sunday specifically related to our relationships with our families. Most of the comments ranged from living in peace with our families to continuing the work on the other side. While surely those answers would be part of the eternities, my thoughts drifted to the personal relationship we should have with the Savior.
A favorite hymn of mine, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, closes with this line:
No more a stranger, nor a guest, / But like a child at home.
I’ve always loved the imagery of the Savior as the Shepherd, and that particular line defines for me the eternities. I do not see the eternities as a stranger standing in a foreign space or a guest temporarily welcomed into that divine place, but rather I see the eternities as finally being home.
Imaging the Savior as the Shepherd is a comfortable and simple shift for me. It is easy to see Him truly supplying my every need and reacting to those needs in a personal way. Over the last few months, but particularly this last week, I’ve struggled with understanding the promptings and impressions on an issue that, at first, came with stunning force and regularity only to be replaced with seeming silence. I’ll admit to feeling betrayed and even misled by those promptings and the following silence, but as I counseled with my wife, she offered the idea that I was trying to shepherd my own life. She didn’t say it in those exact words, but it was nevertheless true, and her gentle rebuke served its purpose.
I recognize in me the rebellious son who consistently tests boundaries. I didn’t name this blog “The Prodigal” because I liked the name after all. It was a recognition of my independent nature and, like the frolicking lamb, a desire to explore and discover for myself. But like most children, I’m especially fond of the open arms the Shepherd bares for people like myself, especially when I’m hurting.
As I learn to trust those Arms, that Voice, and that Guide, I find that my relationship with Him grows and takes greater prominence and expanse in my life. It wasn’t all that long ago when I would have been content to merely stand in the flock. But the fabric of His robes and the touch of His hands have become pleasant and desirable, and merely standing nearby is no longer enough.
I’ve always been confused by those who claim the Savior cannot know us personally. To such complaints, I must reply: if He didn’t know me personally, why would I care? I know He knows me personally, and it is that personal ministration to my needs, my wants, my fears, and my desires that keep this wandering sheep close to home.
The eternities for me are surely the comfort and safety of home. As another instance where our earthly homes are patterned after a divine model, I find the greatest comfort at home where work and play are intermingled with mothers who pray, fathers who lead, children who learn through examples, and the deepest personal relationships with the Savior are made part of everyday life.
I know the Savior offers a personal relationship with each of us, a relationship in which we will find fulfillment, joy, peace, and safety. Once more, my mind drifts to the parable of the Ninety and Nine, the faith and diligence of the Shepherd, and mostly, the journey home for the One. The scriptures say little more than this regarding that journey:
[The Shepherd] rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Matthew 18:13
As one who frequently finds himself wrapped in the folds of the Shepherd’s robe, held close to His bosom as He carries me home yet again, I can testify of that journey home and the richness of His love and mercy for each of us, and I’m grateful for the personal relationship He offers me. He has never offered me less.