Monday, December 23, 2013

I am a sheep, are you?

The temperatures were hovering at freezing and the air spit out a mix between rain and snow, making the roads a sloppy mess and the air damp and dreary. But the atmosphere was alive and rambunctious. It was New Years Eve in Times Square, so of course it was filled with excitement and anticipation. Not even inclement weather could dampen the spirits of the millions who had gathered to count down to the new year.
Standing in the middle of Times Square at the moment that iconic ball dropped has always been a to-do on my bucket list. Now I can say it is crossed off. I attended the festivities and survived! Mission accomplished. As fun as that night was I would be perfectly content to never repeat it. That kind of excitement can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if you ask me. I'd be satisfied with crossing it off the list just once.
Like I said, the weather was less than ideal. For the six hours we stood on Broadway the skies spat out rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain on a continuous loop. By the end of the night I was unsure of whether or not my toes were still attached. It wasn't until I got home and was able to inspect the situation that I could rest easy knowing that I still had all ten toes I had begun the day with.
To say that Times Square is crowded on New Years Eve is like saying that standing under Niagara Falls will get you wet. Crowded just doesn't do it justice. The crowds are packed in like sardines, shoulder to shoulder and sometimes even closer than that. You get awfully comfortable with complete strangers since you are practically hugging them. You don't have much of a say in the matter. You are literally corralled into the barricades and shuffled closer to the famous Waterford Crystal ball that will drop, aka "slowly lower", as the clock strikes midnight.
Essentially you are herded like a sheep. The sound of "bahhh" plays through your mind on repeat all through the night. The crowds are the sheep. The police are the farmers. Just like on a farm, the sheep don't have a say in the matter. The farmer knows where they are supposed to go next and he sees to it that they end up there.
And so it is on News Year Eve in Times Square. The police play farmer as they control the crowds and move them into position for the big moment.
Throughout the night I couldn't help but think of that age old advice parents always give their children: don't be a sheep. What they mean is, don't be a follower. Be a leader. I laughed internally as I thought about how what I was doing, standing in that crowd of people, was the exact picture of what our parents didn't want us to become! They wanted us to be on the outside of the barricades even when the rest of the world said bahhh all the way home, trapped behind a wire fence.
Famous writers and speakers have driven this point home using the sheep as the perfect picture of a dumb follower, blindly walking behind the person in front of them, never thinking for themselves or taking a risk. One woman once said, "It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life." Ouch. That doesn't say much for the sheep.
But have all of these writers and parents considered what flock their child or reader might join? Sure, we don't want to become a sheep of the ways of the world - following into moral decay simply because the rest of the crowd is marching forcefully in that direction. But is there a good flock with a good shepherd?
What about Jesus' flock?
Psalm 95:7 says, "For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."
I am perfectly content to never be a sheep on News Year Eve in New York City ever again. And I hope to never be a sheep in the flock of this world, embracing sin and political correctness so that I can fit in and "get along." But I do want to be a sheep in the flock of Jesus. I want Him to be my shepherd, leading and guiding me. I want to follow, even blindly, behind Him. 
Why would I willingly want to be a sheep, an animal seen as so dumb and stupid that it would be better to be a lion for a single day than a sheep for a lifetime? Because I know that I am just as lost and confused as those poor sheep under the care of a farmer. I know that, apart from God, I am a lamb to the slaughter, caught in a life of sin and destined for a lifetimes of eternal damnation. I need a shepherd to save me from the pit.
On my own I know I am bound for destruction. I will get attacked by wild animals. I will search for food and water and find none. I will get lost and turned around in a land that is unfamiliar to me.
God is my only hope. It is only by His shepherding I will be shown the way.
Blessed are the sheep in Jesus' flock. The world might look at those sheep and shake their heads in confusion. Why would anyone willingly become a sheep? I will tell you why: because we have a Good and Perfect Shepherd. By His love and grace we are given life and direction. Apart from Him we are hopeless. But with Him we have a hope eternal. He is the Good Shepherd and I am happily among the sheep in His flock.

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