So what about those moments, even days, when a mother might find herself willing to trade in her staff for Starbuck's and her green pastures for a nice, hot bath? What about those trying times, when shepherding feels downright hazardous to your health, like an old warning on a cigarette ad? Or those occasions when exhaustion, emotional turmoil, physical discomforts, etc., make shepherding seem about as feasible as climbing Mt. Everest. Couldn't one such mother just temporarily hang her rod and staff, let her little lambs fend for themselves, 'freeze' her responsibilities to her flock for just a moment?
Well, certainly a mother CAN, and many a mothers do, but at what cost? A flock without a shepherd, especially a flock of little lambs, is truly the epitome of vulnerability. When a mother relinquishes her responsibility as a shepherd to her flock, she essentially offers them up to wolves and other predators, to hunger and dehydration, to becoming lost or at the very least, to mindless wanderings, to diseases and ailments, to treacherous terrain, and ultimately, to death. All of this likely not literally, but most certainly figuratively. Oh, no mother does this intentionally. And yes, I have taken it to the extreme. Or have I?
I am recognizing in my own life a selfishness, a self-pursuit, that is oh, so very subtle. But it lures me away from tending to my flock, tempts me to trade in that staff for a moment of peace and quiet, battles with my desire and ability to shepherd my flock. Sometimes it comes in the form of fatigue, sometimes in the form of a monthly storm that wages war on my patience and gentleness, sometimes in the form of feeling overwhelmed or incapable. At other times, it has come in the form of morning sickness or 'every child's sick all at once' sickness. Regardless of it's presentation, the temptation is the same: This shepherding business is too hard; it requires too much of me; I'm not fit to be a shepherd; I can't do it anymore.
Surely, shepherds get sick. They most definitely get tired. I'm certain they have bad days and stormy weather and sick lambs. But rather than handing in their staff and running for the hills, perhaps they have other ways of making it through those hard times.
Perhaps they enlist the help of their "Co-Shepherd" (in most cases, this would be our husbands!). Maybe their "Co-Shepherd" would tend the flock for a bit while they find refreshment for their weary souls (the Word of God beats out Starbucks on this one, but combining the two is a lovely thing!). Or maybe they take a break from their usual route and lead their flock to a lush, green field where they may romp and play while the shepherds rest beneath a shade tree and soak in the beauty of their flock. A shepherd can fight fatigue and other physical detriments with good nutrition, good sleep, and good exercise. In fact, a shepherd owes it to her flock to be as healthy as is within her control. If a storm finds the flock every month, the shepherd may consider its predictability a blessing and plan for it, fastening the hatches and tightening the sails so as to be as unaffected as possible by its raging winds and tormenting rains. And ultimately, the shepherd makes it through the trying times by clinging tight to THEIR master, who's name is The Good Shepherd.
Abating our privilege of shepherding a flock, absolving ourselves of our responsibilities to our lambs...it's simply not an option. It's too dangerous, too harmful, and they are simply too precious. So, mothers, hold fast to your staffs, take your shepherding up a notch, hunker down through the storm, and press on. These little lambs need us!