I heard an illustration once about how shepherds bring a wandering sheep back to the flock. I don't know how true it is. I've never asked a real shepherd about it and I'm too lazy to Google it to find out. Not that it matters. It stuck with me and it has given me a valuable insight into our relationship with Christ. Even if it is untrue, I'm sure it would work for the shepherds. Here is a story based on that illustration.
The Shepherd and ewe
One is missing.
Suddenly his care, concern and joy in the flock is transferred to the ewe that is missing. He is compelled to leave the flock and restore the one that has wandered.
He searches relentlessly. The shepherd knows every thing there is to know about this member of the flock so he knows in which direction to start looking. He finds some tracks and spots the lost one in the distance. As he draws near he can see that it is stuck in some thorny weeds and unable to free itself. He moves in closer and begins to free the animal from the entanglement. He is ever so careful as he pulls away each weed. The shepherd does not want to cause the creature any more harm than what has already been done by the thorns that have been piercing from all sides. With great love and affection he is able to completely free the ewe from the mess.
The newly liberated animal is now free again and so it proceeds to scamper off and flee from the reach of the one that just set it free from its own prison of piercing and choking weeds. The shepherd takes chase, his own determination to reconcile this lost sheep driving him to not give up. But the sheep has a mind and will of his own and is not going to submit to the shepherd easily. The ewe wants to do things its own way. The shepherd does the only thing he can do in order to bring the wandering one back to the flock. He catches up with the animal and uses his staff to break its legs.
The crack of its bones is like thunder in the sky.
Now utterly incapable of running away, the sheep howls in pain as the loving shepherd picks it up and places the burden of its weight upon his own shoulders. Without the use of its legs, those tools of independance and self will, the creature could not follow him even if it was willing to. The ewe is completely helpless and must be carried.
Once restored back to the pasture where the flock has been grazing together the shepherd must give special attention to the newly reconciled one. It's wounds must be tended to and it must be fed by the shepherds hand as it is unable to move about on its own. The sheep is totally dependant on the shepherds provision to sustain its life. Once it has been nursed back to full health it will know and trust the shepherd. The desire to have its own way somewhere out in the wilderness will be seen as complete foolishness.
Even so, it is still a sheep and sheep are stupid. Even with such a loving shepherd you never know what a stupid sheep might do.