Day 24: Pick an animal
If you were asked to pick an animal that represented you, your personality, your character, what animal would you choose? Lion? Gazelle? Mink? Pick one.
Would you pick a sheep?
My neighbors had three sheep. Ben, Bob, and… Fred. (Are those awesome names for sheep, or what?) I loved to go visit them. Whenever I did, the results were predictable. If I entered the pen, they ran to the opposite corner. When Steve (their owner) came in and called them, they surrounded him. They loved Steve.
I will spare you the details about how smelly there were. The point is, they knew Steve, and especially his voice.
In today's reading, Jesus uses this analogy and more. Tomorrow we will look at the idea of Jesus as a Shepherd. Today, let’s consider our “sheepiness.”
Sheep. You won’t find many living independently. They need someone to protect them and provide for them. They are also suspicious and skittish. I am not used to thinking of myself as bearing these qualities.
I want to encourage you to embrace your sheepiness.
Most of us want to be self-sufficient. We don’t want to be a burden. We want to be confident. All of these desires are good. I could even quote you some Bible verses.
I am not suggesting we think of ourselves completely as sheep. As we navigate our way through life, we need to make decisions, live confidently, and more. We demonstrate traits that are far from sheepiness.
There are, however, dimensions that specifically, biblically, bear on being a sheep. Let’s consider two.
First is who (or what) we are following.
Pause and think about it for a moment. We each order our lives because we are following a certain philosophy, or person. For some, it is to “be happy”. For others, it is to live “a peaceful life”. There are many.
The Jewish people have a long history of waiting for The Shepherd. The image fit them. They heard sheep. They understand that a good shepherd makes the difference between life and death. God in fact promised that one day He would send The Good Shepherd. He would send the one you would really want to follow.
There is one other biblical idea.
It has to do with when we don’t follow the Shepherd. We all have days when we do not follow. Sometimes we are in fact “walking the exact opposite the direction” the Shepherd is walking. The Bible has a fancy word for that; we call it Sin.
Sheep wander—so do we. Just like sheep, we put ourselves in danger. Just like sheep, there are moments when we cannot save ourselves. We need someone to swoop in and save us. In our pride, this is hard to admit. I find this uncomfortable reality to be true for me.
How about you? Look, I love to say, “I can do it myself” or “I am going to live my life the way I want.” Indeed, the Good Shepherd says, “Fine, I am not going to force you to follow me… but just know, if you choose to follow me, I won’t let go of you.”