He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
Isaiah 40:11 NLT
One of my favorite things about college is the opportunity it presents for a person to really explore, question and define what has meaning to them. This opportunity is also present in other seasons of life, but for some reason, it seems like pursuing it [outside of college] indicates a level of personal “lost-ness.” I constantly battle with rushing to define my life and then leaning on it as the source of my identity and purpose. My own private god.
It’s all backwards, but most days it still feels more comfortable than admitting out loud that I am still exploring, questioning, and defining.
I read an article recently while researching topics for my college ministry, in which William Deresiewicz, American author, essayist, and literary critic, calls today’s college students “Excellent Sheep.” This term is meant to describe a generation that he believes is able to achieve academic excellence but is unable to think for him/her self. He claims that over-parenting causes our Millennials to struggle with self-worth issues and depression because of their sheepish state.*
Obviously no one would want this label as it’s defined by Deresiewicz. However, his use of this phrase was met with immediate resistance as it hit my soul. As a Christian, Excellent Sheep is a term of love and endearment. It’s a powerful metaphor that speaks to how God cares for us. As a Christian, I know that my parents intentionally raised me to be a very different kind of Excellent Sheep. And I have never seen it as a life of being unable to think for myself… quite the opposite, actually.
Being one of God’s Excellent (ish) Sheep is actually the reason I CAN think for myself.
- Because Jesus died for me (making him my shepherd and me his sheep) I can make decisions based upon more than my time of death.
- Because I’m his sheep I can KNOW, rather than question, that I will be fed, cared for, loved and given wisdom no matter what age I am, what I’m doing for a job, or how well my life plans turn out.
- Because I’m his sheep, I have the freedom to live without fear because as His Excellent Sheep, all my mistakes – past, present and future – are erased for all of time. They do not define me.
“Messenger of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout louder to Jerusalem – do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, ‘Your God is coming!’ Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in all his glorious power. He will rule with awesome strength. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.“ (Isaiah 40:9-11 NLT)
I’m proud to be an Excellent Sheep. I will train my children to be Excellent Sheep, as well, and to be proud of this title. Starting this week, I want to challenge everyone in my life who knows what it means to be truly Excellent Sheep to daily intentionally identify and thank God for the many ways they are free thinkers because of their Excellent Sheephood.
Dear Lord, with pure joy and exhilaration you call us your sheep. Because of your son, we get to be excellent. Thank you for reminding me that we are more than just mindless drones – that your sacrifice allows us to live beyond the ties of past mistakes and fear. Thank you for being our Most Excellent Shepherd. Amen.
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