Assess the Flocks
"Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds." —Proverbs 27:23 ESV
You are a shepherdess. Sounds glamorous I know, and it really is an important job. But . . . it also means dealing with livestock and stepping in the occasional pile of poo. We’ve lost the image of what it means to herd sheep in our culture, but it was common imagery in Bible times.
Not being a sheep farmer myself (though I do have aspirations to own a herd of fainting goats), I consulted my favorite livestock farmer, Google, for some herding tips. Here are some fun facts about sheep:
Sheep have a strong gregarious instinct. In other words, they are naturally fun and good-humored.
Because they are small, they are vulnerable to predators.
Sheep get stressed when separated from their flock.
Sheep wander off easily. Being a good shepherd requires constant vigilance to make sure the sheep are safe.
I’m not calling the members of your little flock livestock, but doesn’t this description of sheep sound a lot like your kiddos? Kids love fun! Sure they throw fits, but they are born loving to dance, frolic, and giggle. But because they are small, they are vulnerable to predators! From germs to pedophiles, the list of potential threats to our children is long. And of course, any mom who has had to pry the chubby fingers of her toddler off her arm to send them to the church nursery knows that our children are stressed by separation from their own family (herd).
The last point is where this analogy really sticks. Our kids are prone to wander. They wander from our side in the grocery store. They wander from the rules. They occasionally wander from the truth we’ve worked so hard to teach them. That is part of their nature as kids and as human beings. Our role as mothers is to see ourselves as shepherdesses, tasked with pursuing them when they wander and lovingly folding them back into the herd.
It requires constant contact and constant assessment. It also requires your attention. As a mom, it can be easy to gravitate toward escapism . . . to use our free time on constant housework, or online, or near our children but not really plugged in. Little sheep tend to wander off when mommy is so distracted.
Proverbs urges us to know the condition of our herds well and to pay attention to the flock. That requires that we put the broom and the iPhone down and check in with our kiddos.
Action Step: Fast from distraction.
Identify the primary thing that distracts you from really checking in with your kids. Maybe it is housework. Maybe it’s Pinterest. Maybe it’s the pull of a great book. Once you’ve identified it, take a one-day fast from it.
I’m not asking you to give it up forever (don’t panic!), but just to step away for one day to really check in with your flock. Get down on the floor with your kids if they are small. Take them out to lunch if they are bigger. Check in with them. Ask how they are doing. Find out what excites them now and what may be worrying them. For one whole day, let your focus be on assessing the condition of the little lambs God has entrusted to you.
A Mom’s Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being the Good Shepherd. Please reveal to me what hinders me from being attentive to the needs of my children. When I find that one has wandered, give me wisdom to point them back to You.