Who wants to be a sheep?
I mean, sheep aren’t smart or crafty or hip, by any stretch.
Sheep get lost, make the same annoying noise all the time, and actually intimidate my wife (that’s a funny story…perhaps for another time).
Of course some people think sheep taste great, and no one could argue that their wool isn’t a gift to staying warm.
But, I would say it is especially hard for us as Christian leaders to identify with this whole notion of being a sheep.
There is so much to do, so many people that need help, and so much that we are needed for, right? People need more than a sheep for that! Yes, those things are certainly very true. We are not just sheep, we are shepherds as well. We are given good works to do. We are called to love and serve. We are called to sacrifice at times.
The problem is when we unwittingly (and perhaps even chronically) step almost completely out of being a sheep and believe that we are exclusively a shepherd. As in when we get so absorbed with helping that we downplay our limits (or blow right past them) to our own costly detriment and to the detriment of those closest to us.
Or when we get so busy that we lose touch with the voice of The Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and then lose perspective on where we stop and He begins. That means more and more unnecessary pressure ends up on our shoulders…which then means others have to deal with us being more superficial, cranky, or anxious, (or all of the above!) which is not exactly what they’re hoping for in a shepherd.
Moving toward the Answer
Of course like any answer that is substantive and real, this answer is not easy to move into.
But the best way I know of to love well and made well over the span of time is to truly embrace your inner sheep. Essentially this means that you lead out of following. As you lead, serve, even sacrifice, it is more and more out of obedience to His voice, not your own.
By extension this also means that you will get better at learning to accept your limits. You will be more able to take steps of faith in saying “no” when The Good Shepherd nudges that way. You will get better at accepting that there are some things you are not called to do. You will begin to trust that He has other shepherds for some sheep you care deeply about. And, you will begin to eventually trust Him on deeper levels when things happen to other sheep you really wish hadn’t happened.
Yes, it does take great faith at times to trust The Good Shepherd. Sometimes He is certainly mystifying in what He let’s happen to us or to other sheep. It takes great faith to trust when some things make no sense in the short term. Or when our deeply held longings are just not being realized.
Yes, these are tough lessons.
The Benefits of Embracing Your Inner Sheep
But as we pray for the gift of embracing our inner sheep, for the gift of accepting our limits, and even to receive the gift of being little, it somehow enables Him (once again) in our lives to be bigger and stronger and, yes, more trustworthy. It makes room for The Good Shepherd to carry what only He can carry.
Then we can be leaders who more and more of the time embody a calm presence, a mature, authentic presence whose lives and leadership reflect the heart of The Good Shepherd.
As you grow in embracing your inner sheep, I believe you will find greater peace, greater fulfillment, and greater rest. The words of David in Psalm 23 penned long ago will resonate with you on deeper levels:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
People are longing for exemplars of authentic peace, wisdom, strength and joy, especially in these difficult days. Perhaps the most important way you are called to be a good shepherd is by the faithful pursuit of becoming someone who truly knows The Good Shepherd and bravely follows His lead.
Blessings on your journey.
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