Being a sheep, not a shepherd
Sheep often get a bad rap. Being a sheep normally connotes blindly following, being timid or weak, or generally not thinking for oneself. But what if being sheep-like instead meant being meek, innocent, receptive to Truth, God? And what if expressing these qualities was actually the way to go in life—was how to live so as to bring healing to our and others’ lives? King David’s well-known 23rd Psalm makes a case for this.
Referring to God as our Shepherd, he wrote that we cannot be in want. We will be led to green pastures and beside still waters (to satisfy hunger and thirst) and comforted in the valley of the shadow (which can be dangerous for sheep), and goodness and mercy will follow us all our days.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, illustrates this relationship to God as our Shepherd in her poem “ ‘Feed my sheep’ ”:
Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow,—
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.
(Poems, p. 14)
This poem expresses a yearning to know not where to go or with whom, but how. And the 23rd Psalm gives an answer: with stillness. When the human mind is quieted, divine direction is clearly heard. That’s because the comforting voice of the Shepherd is always speaking to us, but we don’t always hear it amidst the rumination in our thought. The goodness that results from letting ourselves be shepherded in this way breaks through any urgency of the human condition and calms anger, agitation, worry, or concern.
To trust God’s shepherding is to relinquish a need to control outcomes and circumstances.
To follow God as Shepherd is to accept our own true nature—by listening and trusting God’s direction and seeking God’s guidance in all we do. As Eddy states in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: “Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance” (pp. 149–150).
Seeking God’s guidance feeds a deep hunger for the things of Spirit. This puts off self-centeredness and enables us to discern the truth of being. Thought increasingly comes to rest in the substance and safety of spiritual understanding, ceasing rumination based on human analysis.
To progress in healing, spiritual understanding is required. A study of Christian Science moves thought from a material sense of things to the spiritual. When thought is anchored in God’s goodness, change happens. We yield any sense of personal goodness—whether as a burden or as self-satisfaction in thinking of ourselves as our own source of guidance and accomplishment—to the knowledge that man is God’s spiritual likeness. Steadfastly beholding Truth in thought eliminates the belief that we are vulnerable mortals. Awareness of the substance of infinite Spirit continually ushers us into the house, or consciousness, of divine Love, God, where we dwell forever and move at the impulse of Love rather than human outlines.
Christ Jesus maintained this awareness of following God as the Shepherd. He made the spiritual fact of man’s unbreakable relation to God evident. His words and deeds sprang from the activity of the Christ, the true idea of God and man, which animated him and directed all his steps.
As we cherish the spiritual idea, the reality of God’s all-power and man’s natural and irrepressible receptivity to divine power, we proportionally lose fear and any sense of burden. To trust God’s shepherding is to relinquish a need to control outcomes and circumstances. We cannot consider ourselves in charge and also yield to divine guidance. We aren’t co-shepherds—we are the sheep!
Sheep represent meekness, gentleness, and obedience, and they find strength and comfort in the shepherd and the fold. To be a sheep is to follow the Shepherd, God—to reflect the divine activity that does not tire, the affection that is never absent or insufficient, and to relish the community of others striving to do the same. Christian Science transforms thought, revealing through spiritual truth the man and universe of God’s creating. In this holy fold, divine Love cares for its own, through each “rugged way.”
Larissa Snorek, Associate Editor