Throughout our Upper School careers, we studied many texts that traced the theme of longing for the pastoral life. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins desires to be at home in his comfortable Hobbit hole. In the Odyssey, Odysseus desperately wants to return home to his wife and son in Ithaca. Shakespeare’s play As You Like It paints a beautiful picture of pastoral life in the free, whimsical, natural atmosphere of the Forest of Arden.
In high school alone, each of us spent approximately 1120 days within these walls (some maybe more than others). As much of a home away from home as this school is for us, while here, we often longed to be in the comfort of our houses. At our houses, we often longed for the future of having independence in college. At college, we will long for what lies ahead or for what was once familiar. Some of us will be going states away, some just hours, and some staying local. But the truth is, no matter where we are, we have the innate longing for home.
We, as Christians, are living in a foreign land. Our daily comfort in life as we battle sin and temptation must be the home that awaits us. God has put eternity in the hearts of men, in us. The desire in our hearts must be for Heaven, where our restless hearts will find eternal joy.
The Latin root “pastor” in the word “pastoral” means shepherd. Scripture connects the relationship of man and God to that of a sheep and its shepherd. The Lord takes on the name “Shepherd” in Scripture, revealing not just His role as our protective, sacrificial caretaker, but also our role to remain loyal and dependent upon Him. Scripture urges us to be the sheep: to let Him lead and to follow. We are portrayed as sheep because sheep are vulnerable. A passage we memorized this year is Isaiah 52:12-53. Verse 6 states the reality of man in this: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way,” but it goes further to remind that Jesus took on our waywardness, because “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10). The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice.
My classmates and I are forever grateful to WCA for helping us recognize the Lord’s voice through careful examination of Scripture. His words, the very source of life, are where we get to know Him. His voice undoes the turmoil of our souls when we seek to go our own way or seek comfort in places apart from Him. In this way, our earthly shepherds (parents, teachers, and pastors) have tended to our hearts, minds, and souls in order to direct our affections toward our ultimate home. He is the home we crave.
Psalm 23 (appropriate for the class of ‘23) says “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” I want to encourage my fellow classmates with this passage by David. We don’t know what the valley ahead will look like. We don’t know to which green pastures we will retreat. We haven’t yet walked the paths He will lead us down. But rest in this: we know the One leading us. Let the Good Shepherd lead you, because no matter where we go, His love goes too, and we are at home with Him.