In my job I work with individuals in substance abuse recovery. While in the program they take several classes on spiritual topics from books that are familiar to many – Purpose Driven Life, Crown Financial, Changes that Heal, Boundaries, etc. Several of them are currently in a discipleship class called “Sheep to Shepherd”. As I talk with them about what they are studying in various classes, I have been impressed how almost to a person, the ones in “Sheep to Shepherd” mention, almost immediately, the reference in Psalm 51:8, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.” They are surprised to learn, as I was the first time I heard this, that when a sheep is constantly inattentive to the shepherd and wandering from the flock, the shepherd will break its leg and carry it over his shoulder while it heals, creating a bond of dependency that makes the sheep more attentive to the shepherd from that point on. They each report that they feel they have been through such a radical process of being broken and nurtured by God.
While I’m not prepared to say that God was the means of my own brokenness, I certainly believe that, by His sovereign will, He allowed it and that, once it occurred, He certainly took me into His arms and carried me through to the point that I was healed enough to maneuver again. And that, since that time, I have been much more aware of and attentive to His voice. On the other hand, there may be occasions when it is necessary for God to inflict injury for our own good. As Job observes, “How enviable is the man whom God corrects. Oh, do not despise the chastening of the Lord when you sin. For though he wounds, he binds and heals once again. ” (Job 5:17,18) I am also reminded that God put Jacobs hip out of socket with the result that he walked with a limp the rest of his life.
I would like to know if this story of the shepherd breaking the leg of the recalcitrant lamb is true. It’s a good object lesson, but like many object lessons I’ve heard, it may be constructed to make the point rather than a report of a generally accepted practice.