All We Like Sheep (but I don’t like some of them very much…)

Just thinking…

Compassion: is it more than just a charity gig?

Left to my own devices, I am not a compassionate person. My nature is to be self centered, deaf and blind. I don’t hear the call for compassion; I don’t see the needs for compassion, and if I did, I’d come up with excuses that are all about me: I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the patience, I don’t have the………..

I find it nice when my compassion results in a compliment, a pat on the back, a thank you, making the motivation all about me, again. What about the times when this doesn’t happen? How do I find the strength and motivation to be compassionate, knowing that I’ll never have a reward? This purity of compassion is beyond me so I look at Jesus as a role model and source of power. Jesus, who healed 10 lepers but only got one thank you; who died a terrible death to provide salvation, yet many refuse the gift; Jesus the good shepherd with all us rebellious little sheep.

The Psalmist says that “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” and “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Isaiah said that “all we like like sheep have gone astray.”

I used to raise sheep, so I know that they are stupid and they stink. I preferred being around clean, cute cuddly lambs, but truthfully not very many fell into that category.

The Hubs has a sheep collection. It began with one sweet faced lamb, and has grown into a filled curio cabinet. At first he only wanted to collect sheep with peaceful expressions. But we began finding all kinds of other sheep.

There is the black sheep, the lazy sheep, the sheep who never sees where he is going, the sheep whose head is down ready to butt, the goofy sheep, the bobble headed sheep who is scared and quivering. And there are the sheep who can’t walk, and have to be carried. These are far beyond sweet-faced peaceful sheep. So it is with the people around me.

Since I am unable to generate a good heart on my own, l have to look to the Shepherd to see how to truly be compassionate. The gospel of Matthew says that if a shepherd has a sheep and it falls into a pit, then he will pull it out. Luke speaks of a shepherd having 100 sheep, but losing one of them. The shepherd perseveres in searching, not quitting until it is found. In John, Jesus said “I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Wow. Doing the hard work, sticking with it, going the distance. That’s what the Shepherd teaches me.

It’s fairly easy for me to find compassion for the little obedient sheep who always does everything right and on time. It is not so easy to find that compassion for the goofy sheep, or the lazy sheep, or the sheep that always wants to butt heads. What would the Shepherd do? Sometimes he has to use his rod and staff. Ouch! Other times he just holds them. Sometimes a sheep gets himself so dirty and tangled up that he has to be sheared, and start all over. Looking to the Shepherd is the only way I can truly learn compassion.

I knew a woman years ago who was a cute little thing, but we all saw that she was strange. As time went on, she became even more odd.

When she had a baby, she seemed inappropriately attached to the baby. She became pregnant five more times, but lost each of those babies when they were almost to term. After each loss, her personality changed for the worse. After the fifth, she had to be committed to an institution for a short period of time. She was put on medication, but only took it sporadically. I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t show real compassion.

Then she became pregnant once more and this baby lived. She was not interested in the new baby. She spent her time talking about the dead children; she named them; she made things for them.

The suicide attempts began. She overdosed, cut herself. She developed diabetes, began gorging on sugar, gaining over 100 pounds and sending her blood sugars out of control.

She never overtly hurt the children, but she almost ended her own life. The children were taken away because of neglect.

Finally she had a stroke, paralyzing her left side. It is apparent that she probably will never come back to reality and needs round the clock supervision.

It’s hard for me to know how to approach her. In fact, it’s hard for me to approach her at all. She began as a strange, goofy sheep. As time went on, she was the black sheep. I can see where she was the scared quivering sheep. Now I see her as the sheep who has to be carried. Truthfully, I don’t want to carry her. Every bit of my human nature says she makes me uncomfortable. Is this when compassion becomes more than just a charity gig? Is this when I get my hands dirty?

It’s tough because I’m not a real bright and powerful sheep myself. I have to pray about how to do this. There are times for tough love: that rod and staff (they comfort me…). And there are the times to sit with her and listen. The strength to give her the kind of compassion that she needs can not come from within me; I don’t have it. It must come from the Shepherd.

Oh Father, even while I know in my heart that I am to be compassionate, my nature rebels against it. It’s hard to love the unlovely, the ones who spew out hate, the ones who shirk responsible living. Give me compassion and take my eyes off of me. Let me see the sheep of Your pasture, ALL of them, as beautiful. Amen.

To God be the glory…..
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Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 1:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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