Isaiah 40:1 “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
The picture of Jesus as a good shepherd is one of my favorite. Even before I became a mother I was enamored with the idea of God coming down to humanity in the form of Jesus, leading us in God’s ways with gentle faithfulness. Responding to my own years as a little lamb, growing up, I find that gentleness and faithfulness are precious and essential qualities to parenting that apply to all leadership roles.
In John 10 we see that there are 4 key qualities to leading like the good shepherd.
The first key to leading like a shepherd, is that we accept the responsibility that has been laid upon us. The good shepherd knows the sheep are his own and takes responsibility for them. Knowing the faithfulness of Jesus, as he took responsibility for humanity, inspires me to lead in like manner. Jesus contrasted his good shepherd role with that of a hired servant. A servant who is paid to look after the flock, as described in John 10, knows that they are not his sheep. When threatened by a wolf’s attack the hired man will run away to save himself, leaving the flock in his dust. The picture is clear that a paid worker cares nothing for the sheep. As a mother, I am called to accept the charge of my children as my own. I am no longer a young babysitter watching someone else’s children for a few hours. These children are mine! I am to lovingly provide for and protect them as I train them in the ways of the Lord, and lead them in paths of right-doing. Their care is my lifelong responsibility.
The second key to leading like a shepherd is that we are aware of threats and danger to our mission. The good shepherd, Jesus, says that He gives His life for the sheep. He is aware of the wolf of this world and the threat that he poses. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). The good shepherd doesn’t water-down the reality of the danger to his mission. As a parent, I need to be alert to the outside influences that may endanger the goals of godly child-rearing. Am I ready to block the viscous attacks from gaining a hold on my precious charges?
The third key to leading like a shepherd is that we willingly surrender ourselves to save those we are responsible for. The hireling runs at the sight of danger, and saves his own skin, but forsakes the responsibility of his work. Seeing the threat of lost lives at the hand of Satan, Jesus intervened on our behalf by surrendering His own life. In John 10:18 Jesus describes this as His power. He exhibited strength by giving up his life. Whatever our mission of responsibility, we must ask ourselves to honestly answer, “To what level am I willing to give up my own will and ways to accomplish my purpose of responsibility?” As a parent, I must be willing to give up my desires, to fulfill the mission set before me. Am I willing to do “whatever it takes” to raise my children for the sake of the Lord?
The fourth key to leading like a shepherd is that we share an intimacy with those we are responsible for. Not only was Jesus a good shepherd by giving His life for His flock, he also says in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” There is an intimacy that is shared between the shepherd and the sheep. They know each other deeply. Leading like Jesus means being vulnerable, by sharing our real selves, and seeking to know our children’s hearts. We need an honesty and respect that is mutual between the parent and the child. This intimacy is the foundation of that secure home environment. How well do my children know me and do I truly know them?
We aren’t in this alone. Jesus will provide the nourishment we need. He will keep the parents strengthened when we refresh ourselves in His loving care for us. He holds us and our little lambs in his arms. He carries us close to his heart. We can lead like the Good Shepherd because we are following the gentle and faithful leader Himself.