Today I heard a song called cripple me. It is the story of a man who is running away from the woman he loves. contrary to his actions, he actually wants to stay with her and asks that she "cripple him" so that he will be unable to run away from her.
This song reminded me of a story I've heard in Christian circles, that shepherds in Bible times would break the legs of lambs that constantly wandered away. The idea is that the shepherd would set the broken leg and carry the lamb on his shoulders until the leg healed. When the lamb was well enough to walk alone, it would chose to stay by the shepherd's side for the rest of its life due to the bonding experience of being carried on his shoulders.
Because of the Christian setting I heard this story in, I always assumed the story from the Bible, or at least that is was based on Biblical principles, but now I'm not so sure. Though God has the right to force our allegiance by "crippling us" in some manner, that is not something we see the good shepherd do in scripture. How does the shepherd draw his sheep? My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27) The sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd.
I think we've created the story of the shepherd breaking the legs of stray lambs, because that would be so much easier for us. If God made it physically impossible for us to wander from his side we would never wander into sin and pain and we could always be sure we are on the right path. Easy as that would be, God allows us to choose him or reject him. In the song above, the woman is not going to cripple the man. When she stands at the alter offering him her kiss and her whole life, there is a window of opportunity which will slam shut if he rejects her. She will not force him anymore than the shepherd forces us. We have to choose.