The Surprising Connection Between Dependence and Abundance
By Beth Demme
I don’t know anything about actual shepherding, like, with sheep. Literally, nothing. My visions of being a shepherd come from church Christmas pageants when I was a kid. The 10-year old boys were the shepherds and that meant they carried a cool stick and wore their dads’ bathrobes.
That’s probably all there is to it, right?
A few years ago, I was assigned to be a shepherd-in-the-field at my church’s drive-thru nativity. The other shepherds and I stood with our backs to the cars, looking up at the angel on the hill. The angel declared the birth of the Messiah with a beatific smile that radiated peacefulness and joy.
Despite the excellent work of the angel, I would say that experience proves I’m not cut out to be an actual shepherd.
The shepherd next to me (we’ll call him Benji), nearly made me blow the plot when, out of the blue, he said, “you know what I’ve always wondered?”
“No, Benji. What have you always wondered?” I asked, innocently.
“I’ve always wondered if angels wear underwear.”
“Huh?” I said, pivoting to turn to him with a confused look on my face.
“I mean real angels, not the fake ones we have out here. Do you think they wear underwear under their robes?”
Oh Benji. You are precious to the Lord. Bless your heart.
I guess the one thing I know about being a shepherd is that it works best when there is a good relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd cares deeply for each individual sheep and the sheep are dependent on the shepherd.
I tend to think of dependency as a bad thing and independence as a good thing.
The United States has a Declaration of Independence. As my son nears his junior year in high school, I have a heightened awareness of my responsibility to train him to live independently. The building boom around me is all centered on “Independent Living for Senior Adults.”
Dependency, bad. Independence, good.
Only, what if it’s not?
Time and again in the Bible, God is referred to as our shepherd (Psalm 23, Psalm 28, Isaiah 40:10-11, Jeremiah 31:10, Ezekiel 34:11-15, Micah 7:14, Matthew 18:12, John 10). That only works if we are the sheep, if we are dependent.
Because I am proud and overly self-sufficient, I don’t make a very good sheep. I’m not sure I even like the metaphor of being a sheep. I tend to follow my own voice instead of listening for the voice of my shepherd.
Too often, I try to live independently instead of living in dependence on God.
Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd. He does this when he is explaining to the Pharisees how and why he gave sight to a man born blind (John 9-10).
Jesus spat on the ground and made a poultice to rub on the man’s eyes. He told the man to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. When the man did that, he could see … for the first time … in his life (John 9:6-11).
This is one benefit of dependence. The shepherd gives sight to the blind. I know because I’ve experienced my own version(s) of this. My eyes have been opened to the truth of how much God loves not only me, but you … and you … and even you. 😉 God’s unconditional, healing love has made me want to be more generous, less angry, more forgiving, and less tied to my own right answers.
Come to think of it, this is probably just what Jesus had in mind when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10-11).
What about you? Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind? What does abundant life look like to you? How is it connected to dependence for you (or not)? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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