“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10 Verses 11-14
In a world besieged by social media and an always-on “news” blitz, this quote can drum up a variety of imagery and responses. Some will think of the continued school shootings occurring throughout the United States. Others will think of the relatively trendy and overused political term, “sheeple.” But for our purpose today, we’ll key in a bit more literally.
Jesus used this metaphor to help others understand that he was willing and able to die for those who believed in him just as a shepherd would die protecting his sheep. And it would be his choice to die because he loved his people much like a shepherd loves his sheep. It wasn’t just a job or an assigned responsibility. It was a calling. A mission. It illustrates an incredible dedication for service to others.
Today, we hear buzzwords like “quiet quitting, “barely minimum Mondays,” and “violating my personal boundaries.” When balanced and taken in full context, it’s absolutely true that we have to protect our own well-being. Heck, I preach it myself and my dissertation was about longevity at work. But post-pandemic, maybe the pendulum has shifted a bit too far.
The service professions that we’ve chosen are noble. Our clientele is precious. The mission is critically important. So maybe we should be ready to make great sacrifices to defend and advance that goodness. This work is more than just a job. And yes, it takes a significant toll. But you have to pay the toll to reach any worthwhile destination. When the wolves surround the flock, the shepherd can’t say, “I’m not feeling it today. I need a nap.” We know what we’ve signed up for. As Hyman Roth says in the Godfather Part II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”
If you love the vocation you’ve chosen and you believe in the mission of serving for the betterment of others, then own it fully. If you don’t, it’s time to find work or a purpose that you will love. Because this work is hard. It’s unforgiving. It’s relentless. And it’s never-ending. You need the commitment of a true shepherd to survive. The shepherd loves her flock. Jesus loves his people. Educators love their students. Parents love their children. It’s that love which will steady your resolve when the wolves show up at the door.