For the fourth Sunday of Easter—Good Shepherd Sunday—Lucas Damoff of All Saints Dallas meditates on why embracing our identity as sheep is the key to peace and contentment.
That scripture time and again refers to us as sheep should be some of the best therapy available to those of us raised in a culture that is hellbent on telling us that each of us is a beautiful and unique snowflake, and that each one of us can grow up to become president of the United States. Like Garrison Keillor, talking of the fictitious town of Lake Wobegon, we often believe that in our community, “the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
Our world will tell us that meaning is found in actualizing our potential–in being as good as we can be at whatever it is we are good at. Even in our spiritual lives the pressure to compete, to be unique, to be the one that matters, is overwhelming. Our ambition is such that we can seek to outdo each other, not in honor (as Paul commends), but in spiritual showmanship. See how long I can pray? See what big theological words I know? See how free I am in my worship? See what convincing and life-changing blog posts I write?
As I journey with Christ on the pathway to God I am finding more and more my own ambitions revealed. It is easier for me to consider success in human terms: good grades, an ‘attaboy’ at work, a happy wife, obedient children. But what if my good grades indicate a disordered heart and an idolatry of academic success? What if my success at work indicates that my identify is wrapped in what I do and not what Christ has done for me?
Not only can I make idols of the good things God gives me, but I can begin to think that my having received them is all down to my own superior abilities. In short I am finding I need to be reminded again and again of just exactly how sheep-like I am. Any good thought I have is evidence of God’s grace. Any good work I do is by His power working within me. C. S. Lewis offers us this advice: “Be comforted, small one, in your smallness. He lays no merit on you. Receive and be glad.”
Knowing how small I am helps me not only put my earthly successes, however great or small, into perspective. It helps remove me from the frantic world of trying to actualize my potential. I don’t need to worry about having it all; my Shepherd has lead me to green pastures. I don’t have to worry about my safety; my Shepherd has a rod and a staff. I don’t have to worry about knowing it all; my Shepherd knows the way through the valley of the shadow of death. This frees me to live, not in a desperate struggle to be all that I might be able to be, but to be who God has called me to be. And it creates in me the kind of stillness wherein I can actually hear God’s gentle calling.
My prayer for all of us this week is that we would embrace our smallness, our sheepishness and that we would be satisfied to play our own part in the flock of God, however big or small.
Lucas Damoff is Communications Coordinator at All Saints Dallas and a student at Redeemer Seminary. He and his wife Sarah have two delightful children: Naomi (3) and Eliot (1). Contact Lucas.