This post was written by Christie Penner Worden, a member of the INCM Blog team.
A few years ago, I got really curious about why Jesus talked so much about sheep. I don’t live around a sheep farm to know, and it’s not as normative as it would have been in Jesus’ time. So what did those he taught know about sheep because of common practice that we just don’t understand in the same way? Here’s what I found:
- Sheep are smart. They are trainable and they understand direction.
- Sheep are gregarious. They are social and they need each other. They’re not meant to be alone. They are made for community.
- Sheep know the voice of their shepherd intimately. In fact, they know dozens of voices intimately and trust the voices of both their friends and their shepherd.
- Sheep run from what frightens them but become unsafe if left alone. Maintaining distance from danger is good. Isolating from relationships isn’t.
- Lambs learn from sheep. This matters most.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and within the flock, there are very smart people making educated decisions on behalf of community. It is in our best interest to heed the advice and best practices they are either suggesting or even mandating. Because they are smart. Because they were made to understand this situation rationally. Because they have the flock’s best interest at heart.
But we are, indeed, social and we need each other. And are we not the luckiest of generations to have had other smart people invent technology that allows us to stay connected?
Isolation does not have to be lonely or disconnected so please check in on one another. If someone in your community struggles with anxiety, choose in to hard conversations and sit in the unknown with them. They need you. And they need the truth about what is happening around them.
Who is leading you and your thoughts during this crisis? Who are you allowing to influence your processing of information? Who do you trust to provide fact over fiction, over fear, over speculation? Filter the rest. Listen to a shepherd, a leader, and shut down the noise.
If you are a leader, choose your posture wisely, discerning each step, each day. Unfollow unhelpful feeds. And before anything else, pray. The Shepherd knows your voice, too. Talk to him. Moreover, listen to him.
We need neither be naive nor paranoid. The funny thing about a flock that can seem so packed together is that sheep always maintain flight distance: if they need to run, they need the room to begin. Social distancing is proactive and the space is meant to protect one another. Wash your hands. Sneeze in your elbow. Disinfect toys. Stay close to home. Keep watch for those around you. Do different in the interest of others. This isn’t about you. This is about us.
What are your kids learning from you this week, in these minute-by-minute shifts in our reality? What are they hearing you say and how are you helping them correct their understanding of what’s happening? You likely won’t be able to get ahead of all that your kids are hearing or reading. Access to information in this era is about mitigating risk.
Be honest with your kids. Tell them the truth. But tell them a truth that is not motivated by fear or panic. Teach them how to pragmatically protect themselves and their friends. And lead them back to the Shepherd every time. They are learning the sound of His voice but they are dependent on you to teach them. Dependent on you.
We have choices in this time around how we spend the next three weeks with our kids, and how we talk about what’s happening. Choose wisely. Self-edit. Self-correct. Share. For goodness’ sake, don’t hoard. If you have too much toilet paper or extra milk or something—anything—that you bought in a panic, offer up what you have to those who have not.
Ask questions about who has lost access to what they need due to closures: feeding programs, medically fragile and immune-compromised people, parents who can’t find childcare but can’t afford to not work. How can you help? What can you offer? Don’t just be another sheep. Be a shepherd. Be Jesus.
And above all else, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIRV. This doesn’t stop being true when things feel uncertain; it is evermore the Gospel and we are committed to it.
While we live in the tension of Kingdom now-and-not-yet, we trust that Jesus is still on the Throne, that God is good, kind, generous, faithful, trustworthy, and sovereign and the Holy Spirit is present. And that is more than enough for this season. We are not alone. We follow a Good Shepherd.
Christie is impassioned by the imagination and faith that is hardwired into kids. Her own
childlike faith enables her to believe in God’s promises, see in technicolor and celebrate
God’s creativity. She’s excited to ignite sparks in adults and blaze trails for kids to step onto with kingdom purpose. Christie spends the rest of her time with her charming husband and three (mostly) delightful kids.