Shepherd, Part Two
I Peter 5:2-4 NKJV
From the Beginning
From the Beginning God’s intention to shepherd the flock was clear. God walked in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:8a, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” in order to lead Adam and Eve on the right path. In Genesis 3:1 Eve had encountered the serpent in the Garden and she ate the forbidden fruit and offered it to Adam to eat as well. When God found them in the Garden they hid from Him because they knew they had been disobedient.
Still, God sought them out.
God knew they had been disobedient and still He came to them. Even though they had sinned, God called to them and wanted them to return to Him.
Even then God called and came…
The shepherd called to the sheep.
As I was about to complete my Sophomore year in college when I was 19 years old, I was at a point where I had to declare a major. I was very confused and uncertain about what to major in. I had narrowed it down to five choices and that’s where I got stuck. I could not decide what I wanted. About that time I was offered a job to go work for the railroad. I had been dating a fellow who was entering his Junior year in college. He was majoring in Religion. The year was 1973.
I did take the job working for the railroad. I did continue dating the fellow majoring in Religion. We married a year later.
He graduated from college in 1975 and entered Seminary. Several years later he graduated with an Master of Divinity Degree. He felt like he was being called to shepherd the flocks, so following graduation he started sending resumes to churches.
I Peter 5:2-4 says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples of the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
Our first “flock” was a small congregation in Northwest Missouri. Moving to a rural area was a huge change for this city kid. I had never lived outside a city and I had always been part of larger city churches. I understood diversity and having many different Sunday School classes. I had some idea about church structure.
I had no idea what it would be like to be an example to the flock. Suddenly, I was the Pastor’s wife living in a small close-knit community of people who had known each other all their lives. They looked to us for leadership.
They were gracious and caring. They were very kind. Still, I was an outsider.
The first time the Pastor was sick, I learned that I would need to fill the pulpit on Sunday morning. Speech Communication was one of the subjects I loved, so I was able to lead worship.
Within a few years, we felt like God wanted us to move and we accepted a call to pastor a larger congregation in Central Northeast Missouri. We packed up and moved all four children and started a new journey. We were at that church for ten years. While we were there I returned to college and I graduated with a degree in Speech Communication. My daughter (the oldest) graduated from high school just before our journey came to an end. While we were there my daughter grew up with her best friend, who became her husband.
As we led the flock through various ups and downs, we learned what God meant by being a shepherd. We were blessed to work along-side many gifted leaders in that community.
Once again, we sensed God was calling us elsewhere and we moved to a town that bordered the Mississippi River. It was a larger congregation in a college town. By now, I thought I had learned something about how to be a Pastor’s wife. I quickly found out I knew very little because the nature of this congregation was very different from our previous congregation. I learned how to lead without speaking and how to set a few boundaries. My two oldest sons graduated from high school there and my oldest son met the woman he would marry there. My second son went off to college from there no he met the woman who would be his wife.
As we led the flock through some very difficult times, we learned that being a shepherd can be very difficult.
After several years we moved to Iowa the accepted a call to Pastor a church in a city. By now I understood how difficult it can be to be a shepherd. I learned that leadership is challenging at best. The week we moved there, my youngest son met the woman who would be his wife.
While we were there, I learned humility.
I learned how to survive major life changes. I learned how to be single again. I learned how to let God heal. I started going to sit with a Spiritual Director and it changed how I think. I learned life isn’t about what I can do for God. It’s about what God has for me.
I learned how to let God lead. I was not on my own. It was me and God. I told God all I wanted was a very small flock and a tiny ministry.
That felt safe. While I was in that stage, I learned how to listen to God. I learned how to pray. I learned how to be still in the presence of God. God led me to shepherd a very small flock. I was sure that was what God wanted.
Instead God did the unthinkable and He called me to go to Seminary. I fought hard against that, but in the end I gave in and I enrolled. I graduated from Seminary just six years before I retired.
I wasn’t sure what God had in mind but I had finally decided I was just along for the ride.
I had learned that God is the shepherd. As I prayed about what God had for me, I started to write and study scripture. So, that’s what I do. I write and I sit with people and help them receive ‘life’ from God.
I’m not sure that’s what I’ll always do, but for now I love it. Helping people hear God and studying scripture and writing are the greatest blessings of my life!
God leads. God is the great shepherd. God gives life to us.
And I am blessed!
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Be still and listen.
Spend time in silence with God. My Spiritual Director of ten years years taught me to open my hands and receive what God has for me. So, open your hands to God.
In God, Deborah