“Familiar imagery in the scriptures is that of shepherd and sheep. We predominately see this in church life where the pastor is called the “shepherd of the flock,” but we also hear that the parent should be a shepherd to their children. The shepherd guides his sheep, leading them to what they require; green grass, clean water, and a safe place to lie down. He protects them with his rod, which is used to reach out and guard them from going in the wrong direction and to fight off wolves intent on snatching up the young lambs. Sheep require a shepherd because they cannot take care of or protect themselves.
Unfortunately, the pastor/parent/shepherd is often unfairly elevated to the level of super-human or super-saint by their flock, if not by themselves. The idea of knowing more, of being more educated, powerful, discerning, and ‘spiritual,’ can feed the god complex in the life of a shepherd. For the shepherd, the danger that comes with this idea is that he can’t be real, have flaws, or confessions of sin, and that creates pressure and isolation for him. Instead of getting an empathetic and authoritative leader who has already walked the valleys the flock is walking, we get a sympathetic, removed, or authoritarian ‘higher’ life form that can never ultimately relate to us. Instead of getting community, we get isolation and distortion, the distortion of the true condition of the shepherd. The inherent problem is that we have sheep playing dress up, sheep in shepherd’s clothing. Even though we know that pastors are sheep, that we as parents are sheep, we get lost in the game of playing dress up and see whoever is dressed up as a shepherd as having the omnipotent, opposable thumbs of a higher being instead of the fallible, clumsy hooves of a sheep. Rather, I as a parent should never pretend to be anything more than a sheep with a shepherd’s heart; I am to be just another sinner with the wounds and scars and stories of God’s grace and how it saved and is continually saving me. If we look at our pastor and we only see a shepherd and not his ‘sheepishness,’ then we see someone with no need for grace and therefore someone who can neither suffer with us nor understand us. How many parents have heard this complaint from their kids, “you just don’t understand me?” The disconnection and isolation they feel is because we are too afraid to show ourselves for who we really are, sheep tasked with shepherding duties in equal need of grace that comes from the Great Shepherd. This fear gives way to separation, as we become the ideal they repeatedly fail to reach.”
Excerpt From: “House of Grace – Big Sinners Raising Little Sinners.” Get an advance reader’s copy of the book here well before it releases.