The Importance of Sheep

1 01 2011

I woke this morning with an odd thought blazing in my mind: “It is the sheep who are important.”

Important sheep? Little fluffy baa-heads, possibly one of the stupidest of the domestic animals? (Right after turkeys, of course.) In the bible, sheep represent people to be cared for. Even today we refer to a pastor’s “flock” as the people he ministers to. I have five little sheep, six if you count my husband. They are the people I am responsible for caring for.

The sternest lesson I have had to learn as a mother is that my children are much more important than I am. This is not a lesson that comes easily. After all we’re surrounded by messages that tell us to “be all that we can be,” to succeed, to prosper, to seek happiness, to follow our dreams, to win friends and to influence people. Even the “harmless” messages we give our children: “You’re special! You can be anything you want to be,” teaches children that they are important.

We grow up thinking we are important, talented, vital. That it is necessary that we be happy and find success. Reminds me of Moses. Raised to be a prince in the dynasty of Egypt. Called to be the savior of his people. And then… then… just as he’s reaching for his destiny, beginning his ministry… then he gets stuck in the desert watching sheep for 50 years.

50 years of baaing and babies and shearing and parasites and accidents and dirt and heat and flies. No intellectual stimulation. No sheep-tender-of-the-year award. No self-actualization. No promotion. Just sheep. Fifty years until he learned that he wasn’t important at all. It is the sheep who are important. Only after he learned that deep down in his bones did Moses become “the most humble man on earth” and worthy to lead his people.

Leaders who think that they are important always lead their people astray. Dictators, kings, warlords, selfish politicians… governing for your own glory is always a disaster to your country. It’s the sheep who are important. King David knew that. What man in his right mind would fight off a bear with a stick to save a lamb? A man who understood the importance of sheep.

There is nothing more important than to deliver the ones we are entrusted with safe and whole to the end of our watch. I am not important. You are not important. It’s all about the sheep. The little ones. The weak ones. Our employees, tenants, patients, constituents, children, workers, and servants. It’s only when we realize that what we have and what we are doesn’t matter at all that we are ready to lead our particular flock of sheep with discipline, courage, humility and integrity.

I may never be famous, or particularly successful, but today I am reaffirming what I’ve been given to do. I know where my sheep are. Do you?