Sarah McNulty, Graphic Designer & Student Ministry Assistant
Specifically Chapter 34
This chapter, in particular, had me thinking about what it means to be a “shepherd,” a thought I’ve pondered for several years now. I believe that as followers of Jesus, no matter what our “position” or “title” may be in the church, we have a responsibility for His sheep. For this devotional, I decided the best way to give you my thoughts would be in a “wiki how- to do anything” format. So without further ado:
How to Be a Good Shepherd: In 5 Steps
Step 1) Pray that God will break your heart for what breaks His heart.
I was going to save this point for last, because I think it is the most important, and the rest of the points fall under this one. But I think this is where it starts, and where we need to start. Though I have long held a deep love for people, I started praying this prayer a couple months ago, and God’s answer to that prayer hit me in a hard way. I had seen stories all over my newsfeeds about the ISIS militants. One day, I happened to read some posts on the Humans of New York blog, documenting the blogger’s UN tour. The posts, (this one in particular), made me weep. I don’t remember if I prayed for God to break my heart first, or if God led me to the story to reveal His will first, but I can honestly say that I felt my heart break in a profound way, and I have prayed this prayer regularly since.
Step 2) Pay Attention.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives, so filled with #firstworldproblems that we miss opportunities to care for and love people. Both globally and locally, there are needs all around us that we pass by every day. Maybe you could volunteer some time at a youth center; maybe you take that extra coat in your closet and donate it; maybe you have an elderly or disabled neighbor that could use help with their yard; maybe you know a new mom who needs child care; maybe you take those used clothes you were going to sell and give them to someone you know could use them; maybe you know a family from your kid’s school who struggles to put food on the table; maybe you drive past a homeless person on your daily commute. I did the latter the other day; I had driven past the same homeless people before. They weren’t even asking for money – they were just asking for food. I had just stopped at Panera bread and was bringing home lunch to a house already filled with food. So I made a circle and gave them the food I had just bought. I’m not going to lie, I came up with every possible reason to keep driving, and I almost did. I’m glad I didn’t.
Step 3) Don’t Write People Off.
It’s so easy to do, isn’t it? I have a tendency to do this, especially when I watch them make the same poor choices over and over again. Let me tell you about a time I didn’t. Early on in my work with students, Willie and I got to know Nick really well–and not in a good way. But both Willie and I felt like we were called into Nick’s life for a reason, and we were able to see past the hard exterior that he put up. We were always hearing about the trouble he was getting into, and many times we were involved in some capacity. One of those times we were involved was at a conference when he punched a kid from another church in the face. This all went down on the 2nd to last day. We met as a staff to discuss what happened and what should be done. It’s fair to say that there were a number of leaders who had written Nick off, (understandably so – did he even want to be here? He’s had a bad attitude the whole time. It’s nothing new for him), and they wanted to have him explain and apologize to the entire group, and then send him home. Willie and I, along with a couple others, wanted him to stay. Nick ended up being able to stay. Well, you know what happened? Nick screwed up again. Partly due to circumstances beyond his control, but he now had a “zero-tolerance for late attendance” policy upon him, and he was late, which meant that on that final day, he was to be sent home. Want to know what happened after that? After the session, Nick and I had a long conversation. It started as a conversation of consequences and ended as a conversation of redemption, freedom and mercy. Nick accepted Jesus into his heart and he was completely broken in the best way.
Step 4) Find the Value in People.
Shepherds value their sheep. We cannot love people if we don’t value them. And if we don’t love them, we cannot be good shepherds. Jesus was and is the ultimate Good Shepherd because of how he loves us. Since having my two girls, I’ve often thought and felt how scary it is having that kind love, that much of my heart, walking around in their own little lives with so much out of my control. And I think that this is what it’s like for God. But I realize, no, it’s just a glimpse of what it’s like for Him.
Step 5) Pray that God will break your heart for what breaks His heart.
I feel like this is where it starts and where it “ends”; “Ends,” as opposed to just ends, (no quotes), because it never really ends. The only way to really keep our good shepherding in check is to keep praying that our hearts stay in check.