One of the things that characterizes a shepherd is that he smells like the sheep.

That is, he spends his life with them. He knows them, lives among them, shares their joys, sorrows, even grief. When one is hurting, he’s there to help and heal. When one is sick, he tends to it. When the flock is hungry, he searches diligently and leads them to good pastures.

It’s no surpise that the Biblical image the Holy Spirit chooses for pastors is that of shepherds.

And it’s particularly the joy of the small church pastor that he really has no choice but to “smell like the sheep.” The bigger-church dudes can add layers of interference betwixt themselves and them smelly sheep them thar… but the small church pastor doesn’t have that luxury option. He is in the thick of it with them.

But that’s not always a joy. Sometimes, especially when the sheep are deeply wounded, he gets bled on, then bitten, by the bewildered sheep.

In our tiny yet small fellowship here on the lakeshore, 2007 has been a particularly painful year for a number of our families. For one family in particular, it has turned out to be the worst year of their lives. And it all came to a head the week before Christmas, when the husband discovered that his wife had been unfaithful to him. Through much counseling, and praying, and venting, and tears, the marriage has since disintegrated. But the sheep still hurts, and hurts deeply.

So much so, that he’s at the point of walking away from the Lord.

It’s heartrending, to watch a sheep, in spite of multiplied myriads of warnings, walk right over to and begin to leap off of the cliff on the edge of oblivion.

Some thoughts, though, that have arisen through this all:

  • If my walk with the Lord is based on whether or not I get anything out of it, I’m not really serving Him – I’m really serving my own interests.
  • If my walk with the Lord is based on the faithfulness of others, I’m not really serving Him.
  • If my service to the Lord is based on any outward perk, reward, “attaboy,” or external criterion (like, oh say, numbers), I’m not really serving Him, but my own interests
  • If I serve Jesus for any motive less than absolute devotion to Him no matter the cost, no matter what He calls me to go through, no matter the consequence or result, I’m not only not really serving Him – I also won’t stay the course.

If there’s anything that can cause me to give up and throw in the towel, that is what I will inevitably face.

Tonight, I’ve felt more like throwing in the towel than I have for a long, long time.

But I can’t.

I don’t have that option.

And realizing that, I find His peace…

The brother I mention above is doing better, and has asked for the men of the fellowship to lay hands on him and pray over him (which will happen this coming Sunday). I have no desire to go into any detail as to what he’s been called to endure this last year, but just suffice it to say, it’s been a particularly bad time for him and his family.

He’d sent me an e-mail today, with the following:

It has been a tough year and I am not out of the woods yet but I am in the word and learning to trust more in the Lord every day. In you blog just have people pray for our family.

So I’d like to ask both my readers to pray for the wounded brother – and especially for his children. Always when things like this happen, it’s the kids who get the most deeply hurt.