~ Jon Foreman (Switchfoot)
Shepherds smell like sheep*. I laughed when I first saw this little saying on a home-made placard in my friend Nathan's office; then, it made me think. Christian leaders are shepherds. If we don't smell like sheep, we're not mixing it up enough with the flock. Admittedly, at the time I was probably smelling a bit too fresh—unacceptable for a shepherdess with over seven years of intense Christian leadership training under her belt. I had led countless groups with a fair amount of success—however you gauge that—but, I knew I was standing, crook in hand, behind a wall of glass: a ceramic Bo Peep figurine, who'd be more effective as an action figure. "God, help. I have a deep, deep fear of sheep. Please fix me. Make me a better shepherd."
This prayer required no small amount of courage. I am a raging introvert, you see; socially inept to a diagnosable degree. Or rather, I was. Life has completely opened up for me since praying that prayer. God has sent some real stinkers (she wrote, affectionately) into my life, and I love them, every one—even the few who don't love me back. My little flock has been through so much in such a short span of time, it boggles the mind: addiction, divorce, suicidal thoughts, co-dependancy, irrational fears, intense poverty, you name it. Very adult problems. Although exilarating, trying to shepherd hurting sheep through their individual valleys has been a roller-coaster with extreme highs and murky lows... including an occasional helping of heartbreak and humiliation for Yours Truly. In the thick of one particularly tough shepherd/sheep moment, Nathan unwittingly helped me out again. "If your heart isn't broken yet, you're doing something wrong," he announced, during a routine latechurch leadership meeting. Precisely what I needed to hear.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:13
*From the book, They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the 21st Century, by Lynn Anderson