Holy Week Devotional Contest: Kelly Mack McCoy
Our Journey with the Good Shepherd
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me… You anoint my head with oil. (Psalm 23:4-5)
White lines zoomed in and out of sight as my eighteen wheels rolled ever faster downhill, soon after topping the summit of the Tejon Pass on California’s Interstate 5. I clutched the steering wheel of the rig that was slipping out of my control.
The truck’s brakes, hidden by a cloud of smoke, provided my only hope for stopping, since the rig was not equipped with an engine brake and I had no trailer brakes. I yanked the wheel to the right lane, intending to drive off the side of the mountain to limit the loss of life to two – myself and the co-driver who slept like a baby in the bunk, blissfully unaware of the unfolding dramatic event that threatened to end his life.
Why did I find myself in this predicament? Very young and inexperienced, and also a bit fearful of mountain passes, I had my brakes adjusted by an equally inexperienced mechanic who turned my trailer brakes the wrong way when adjusting them, leaving me with just the wholly inadequate tractor brakes to navigate through the pass. I chose not to test the brakes myself and even passed a mandatory brake check point at the summit.
As you may guess from reading this, I was able to stop the rig. Out of all other options, I pulled the emergency brake. After what seemed like an eternity of a delay, the brakes held, and I was able to pull my truck to the shoulder. A Good Samaritan trucker stopped to help. We crawled under the trailer together, where he showed me the problem and correctly adjusted the brakes.
A series of poor choices led me to that point in my life. My story is an illustration of how our lives can spin out of control, just like the wheels on my rig, when we wrest the steering wheel from God and try to control our own lives.
Like the sheep of His pasture, we journey through life under the care of our Good Shepherd. Does your life sometimes seem out of control? Psalm 23 makes sense of it all and comforts us with the image of the rod and staff as well as His anointing.
The rod of the shepherd in ancient times was primarily used to protect sheep from wolves and other predators who prowled around seeking to devour them. But it could also be used for discipline to correct the sheep when they wandered off into danger.
The staff of our Shepherd guides us and keeps us in the flock. The hook of the staff was used as a guide to keep wandering sheep on the right path. We are never alone. The Lord provides guidance and discipline for our journey here.
And the anointing? We think of anointing as a ceremonial act setting aside a person for God’s purpose, and it is. But why were the sheep anointed with oil? It was done primarily to protect them from disease and torment caused by parasites like flies and mites – but also to protect the sheep from themselves.
Sheep will spread parasites among the flock by playful head-butting and rubbing. Also, the rams may cause injury to themselves and others when they butt heads. The oil causes the blows to brush off harmlessly to the side, much to the chagrin of the males of the flock.
Isaiah 53:6 tells us that “…we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way…” Since every one of us has gone astray, we shouldn’t be surprised when the Good Shepherd in His wisdom uses the rod, the staff, or the anointing to protect and guide us. The Good Shepherd willingly died for us so we can live when God “…laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And since we live because of Him, the least we can do is follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads.
Kelly Mack McCoy pursued a life-long dream of becoming an author after a life-altering event changed the trajectory of his life. His first book, Rough Way to the High Way, is a novel about a trucker-turned-pastor-turned-trucker who hits the road again after his wife’s murder.