We studied John 10 this week (I am the Good Shepherd), then Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) came up in my daily devotional, and this morning at CSB chapel Peter Were commented on one of the songs sung by the choir which the Spirit used to convict his heart about his responsibility as a shepherd. When the theme comes up three times in three days from three directions, it is always a clue that this is important. What is God trying to tell us? For one, that we are NOT the good shepherd, we are simple sheep. We need a protector and a leader, someone well-armed and far-seeing who can be responsible for us. There are many animals one can imagine performing noble rescues or learning tricks. Sheep are not among them. We are helpless to even find our own sustenance. We are clumsy and easily swayed, fearful and unoriginal. The more we see our sheepishness, the more we know our need for the Shepherd. WHM and Paul Miller use this famous cross chart: the more we grasp the depths of our sin and the heights of God's holiness, the bigger the cross becomes, the greater our knowledge of God's power and love. And we're in that sort of a season here: Friday Scott was summoned to a meeting of disgruntled teachers worried about their contracts after the unfiltered consultant report (which suggested cutting the staff size in half to save money) was inadvertently passed on without a careful explanation that we are not planning to take every recommendation as an immediate plan. It all ended well, but again with our team, our patients, our ministries, the sheer complexity of the need makes us practically bleat and run for the fold. And the more we acknowledge that, the more we will see the Shepherd's grace as the true source of success.
So we're sheep. But we're also called to do a bit of surrogate shepherding here. Ez 34 says that God will judge between the sheep .. . and those found abusing the flock in their roles as leaders will be punished. Like the hirelings it is tempting to run when the going gets rough. When there is no blood for transfusion and a child I've known from birth is about to give up his 8 year struggle with sickle cell right in front of my eyes, I'd rather get away. When people aren't happy with the way we've planned or managed something, and feel let down or hurt, it is tempting to avoid them. And like the thieves, I know that my heart often wants to use my colleagues for their gifts or work rather than valuing them for the essence of who they are. We are NOT the Good Shepherd, the One who sacrificially goes ahead to clear the way of all danger, whose voice leads through the palpable darkness of death's shadow.
So what can we do? This morning in church the preacher referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. It struck me that the Good Shepherd became a sheep, the one sheep who would be sacrificed, bled, cut, eaten. In order for us to grow from sheep towards shepherd. To follow, yes, but to lead others as well, not based on our quality wool or spiffy hooves, but on the power of the life of the Shepherd in us, drawing others into His paths, being led together by Him. So let us be shrinking sheep, aware of our feebleness, but whose lives embody the wisdom and power of the real Shepherd in such a way that HIS grace automatically exudes from us for the good of those we're called to lead.