Baack to the Sheepfold

If you know me at all, you know I have a thing for sheep. What you may not know is that my sheep obsession started almost 30 years ago, in the summer of 1989! My sister, who has a thing for animals of any kind, was fostering endangered desert tortoises in her Arizona backyard at the time. My mom thought it’d be fun to start a turtle figurine collection for her. Not wanting to ignore her favorite (oldest) daughter, she asked me if I’d also like to collect something.

I thought for a moment before answering, “Sheep.” I’d never even been around actual sheep. But I’d rubbed shoulders with them on the pages of the Bible, and read a few books about the spiritual parallels between humans and sheep. (The most notable being “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. It’s a classic; I highly recommend.) I’d grown rather fond of these wooly wanderers.

And so, I became known as a lover and collector of all things Sheep.

This spring, I revisited Psalm 23 with my Thursday night Bible study group, along with author Jennifer Rothschild as our insightful teacher. (I also highly recommend her study!) In preparation, I dusted off my sheep collection and enjoyed the memories they evoked as they decorated our gracious Bible study host’s home. I was excited to share my passion for sheep with the group.

Turns out I was the one most in need of a reminder that I was still just a humble sheep.

If you know sheep at all, you know that despite their thick wool coats, they are “a few threads short of a sweater,” if you know what I mean. They need a lot of help. They’re extremely high maintenance. (“Bless,” my British BFF Caroline would say about folks like these.)

Here are just a few reasons why sheep are so needy:

  • They are quickly disoriented. Unlike birds, dogs, and many other animals, sheep lack a homing device. No GPS included!
  • They are easily spooked. Once, on a field trip with my “Mums and Tots” group in England, I witnessed a whole group of sheep panic when some harmless preschoolers tossed a few bits of hay their way!
  • They are almost completely defenseless. No claws, no fangs in those jaws. No wonder they run!

That they need a shepherd is no surprise. But not just any shepherd. They need a good shepherd. One who will tirelessly devote himself to their intensive care.

I don’t really like being compared to a sheep. But (sheepishly) I must confess this threadbare sweater fits.

  • I can lose my spiritual bearings and forget my way “home.”
  • I am prone to panic, the smallest worries triggering an emotional stampede.
  • I often feel defenseless and vulnerable when under spiritual attack.

Thankfully, I am not a sheep without a shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1, NASB)

And my shepherd is a Good One. An expert in His field! (No pun intended.)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, NIV)

A good shepherd is, well, good at what he does. He genuinely cares for his sheep. He has a vested interest in the well-being of His flock, because his reputation is on the line. A thriving flock testifies to His watchful, faithful care. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe and sound.

In a recent blog post I shared that I am in need of some “soul care,” some restoration and repair. The starting point for this journey was admitting who I am: a sheep in need of a shepherd, and acknowledging who He is: the Good Shepherd, who will stop at nothing to provide for His sheep. My job? To not resist, but instead rest in His capable care.

I needed this reminder. Do you? Then repeat after me:

I am a sheep.

I have a Good Shepherd.

He is more than able, and willing, to take care of me.

I will rest in His loving care.

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