In the midst of a culture that prizes independence, self-sufficiency and pride, it’s easy to find ourselves in opposition to Christ’s calling to be dependent on Him. Terms like ‘submission’, ‘humility’ or ‘follower’ can make us cringe or feel resentful for having to rely on someone other than ourselves. Why is reliance the road God has chosen for us?
There is something about self-sufficiency that has a magnetizing pull on our identities. It lulls us into believing that the more you can handle, the better, stronger, and more admirable you are. We like to think we can do it all. Deep down, we secretly believe assistance is weakness, help is for the handicapped, and being needy equals instability.
Could it be this call to dependence doesn’t make us invalid, but rather alive? What if embracing our “dependent design” allows us to live more fully, freely, and joyfully? Isn’t that the life we really want?
A Beautiful Design
In John 10, Jesus beautifully describes the relationship between Himself and His followers in yet another discourse with the Pharisees. Issuing a fourth I AM statement, Jesus says:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” – John 10:14,15
In this passage, Jesus refers to Himself as the good shepherd and His followers as his sheep. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never been incredibly excited about Jesus calling us sheep. From everything I’ve heard, sheep are stupid, brainless animals who constantly fall off cliffs and take the whole flock with them. It’s important to take this passage apart and break down the characteristics of BOTH parties in order to glean the beauty of this comparison. As we break down the characteristics of each, we’ll see that we’ve been given a beautiful design full of intention and purpose.
What Does It Mean to Be a Sheep?
If we’re gonna own our identities as sheep, let’s get some facts straight about them:
- Sheep have very strong instincts to follow the flock or whatever else is in front of them
- Sheep depend very heavily on their vision
- They have great peripheral vision and terrible depth perception. (This is hilariously sad) Y’all– they literally can’t see immediately in front of their noses
- Sheep are a prey animal–very susceptible to attack
- Sheep have an amazing sense of hearing
Like our wooly friends, we’re also very inclined to follow something. We follow trends, beliefs, passions, even people. What we choose to follow is our choice. We’ll either follow Christ to new pastures, or another short-sighted sheep off the side of a cliff.
It’s also important to remember that like sheep, we also have very limited foresight. This gives a whole new meaning to why God calls us to walk by faith and not by sight. We weren’t designed to see the future, but rather just the next step ahead. This causes us to rely on the one who sees it all–He doesn’t miss a thing.
God also gave us a strong sense of hearing, like sheep, so we can know and learn His voice as we follow His lead. As people who are born into a spiritual battle between good and evil, we too are subject to attack from the enemy. Turns out, we have a lot more in common than we thought.
The Role of a Shepherd
If we’re going to recognize Christ as a shepherd, let’s get some facts straight about shepherds:
- The main role of a shepherd is to take care of the sheep. He keeps his eye on the whole flock while still caring for each sheep individually.
- Shepherds lead their sheep to new pastures to avoid wearing out a field, robbing the sheep of the nutrients of fresh grass. They also pre-inspect new pastures for poisonous grasses.
- Shepherds protect their flocks from predators and fend them off
- Throughout history, shepherds often lived in shared cabins with the sheep or in covered wagons that traveled with their sheep.
- The shepherd was not just a watchmen but also a physician. He brought them back to health when they were sick and bound their wounds.
With Christ as our shepherd, his eyes are constantly on us. While he watches the “flock”, he also has personal relationships with His followers. He knows us deeply, cares for us and is always for our good. Christ leads us in and out of seasons and places, to feed our souls and stretch us to grow stronger. He lovingly removes us from pastures and situations that poison us and are a detriment to our wellbeing. In the midst of spiritual warfare, Christ is our protector, defender and he fights on our behalf. He doesn’t watch our lives from afar, but He remains with us in the middle of it all. He restores us in our weariness, binds our wounds and fully restores us.
Owning Your “Sheepness”
When we own the fact that God designed us to be dependent on Him, a crippling weight falls from our shoulders. When we lean on Christ, we are relieved of the pressure to hold it all together, have the right answers, and have enough strength to face our battles. Maybe dependence isn’t weakness, but rather our greatest strength.
I’m convinced– if we want full, free, joy-ridden lives, we must fully own our design for dependence. Own your “sheepness” and watch the beauty of a life fully dependent on Christ unfold. As He leads you to new opportunities, fresh water, and soul nourishment, take delight and confidence in knowing you are fully known and cared for.
Accepting that being a “sheep” is a part of our identity allows us to truly look to the Shepherd. I believe we’ll find ourselves laying down the need to be enough and confessing to ourselves and the world, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” (Psalm 23:1)