You are a sheep.
You are not the boss sheep, or the most discerning. Unfortunately, you have sheep poop and twigs matted in your wool, just like all the other sheep.
I am also a sheep.
I’m not the bravest sheep in the flock. Jesus knows I bleat and skitter nervously along the way like the rest. I hear the wolves howl in the distance and wonder – routinely panic – how anyone will survive the night in this shadowy valley.
Our pastors are sheep.
They are not the most holy of all the sheep, or the most wise. They are vulnerable and prone to wander. They also get stuck in dangerous places; alone; isolated; in need of search and rescue.
We are all sheep.
I realize this is not the most inspiring of images. Who in America is proud to be counted as a sheep these days? The whole idea is considerably unnerving. Ewe.
And if I MUST be a sheep (darn all that holy scripture) then I will be a smart, strong, astute, capable, and shiny kind of sheep! A sheep that can take care of herself. A sheep that can effectively lead others. A remarkably different kind of sheep. A super-sheep!
We are not super-sheep, saints. Try as we might, we are not shiny or energizing in our own sheep strength. No other sheep can pull us out of the thorns or the pit. No other sheep, no matter her leadership skills, can protect, guide, tend, and give her people true rest.
So what does it mean, people of a living God, that we are the (not-so-super) sheep of his pasture?
It means that it’s silly for us to huddle up and trust in our own instincts and abilities for even five minutes. Our natural inclinations and sheep expertise are severely lacking against all that waits to distract, delay, and devour us along the way.
It also means that we can’t place all our hope and trust in the words and best-laid plans of other sheep – well intentioned as they may be!
Mostly, being a sheep in God’s pasture means that we belong – body and soul – entirely to God. We are HIS sheep, and he has entrusted us into the eternal care of a brave, wise, and worthy shepherd.
The man God has chosen to shepherd his people knows his sheep. He deals with them as his Heavenly Father does: kindly, firmly, justly, and with infinite wisdom and mercy.
Our good shepherd, God’s own son, does not grow weary in caring for his people. He rescues his sheep from traps and snares, binds their wounds, and keeps watch in the darkest hours of the night. He guards and guides his flock with his own life.
And so peace to you! Because you are not alone in this troublesome world. You have a vigilant and faithful Shepherd who is not silent and is very near!
Listen carefully for his voice, then, and follow him. Look earnestly for his face and trust in him. Stay close to the Shepherd and learn his words and his ways – for he is your comfort, your counsel, and your truest light on your path.