Years ago, I was trying to find a definition for the word love. Not the standard Websters version, but a working definition. In a discussion group at that time, a shepherdess posted a comment that included, “God loves your sheep more then you do.” Notwithstanding the grammatical error, it impacted me in a really profound way. While this did not add any clarity to my quest for a working definition of love. It did ensure that my relationship to my flock grew along with my understanding of love. It truly changed the way I dealt with, and made care decisions for my flock.
The working definition I ultimately adopted was , ‘When another’s pleasure, security, and desires are as important to an individual as their own’. This definition works for the relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, or even shepherd and sheep. I know many good shepherds, that get up at 6am on Sundays to go out in sub-freezing temps to get their sheep hay and warm water. They may also get up every two to three hours during the night to check on the expecting ewes, and newborn lambs. Additionally, they derive great satisfaction at the joy their sheep display when moving to new pasture. If those things do not fit the above working definition of love, I do not know what would.
This love is not dependent on any particular belief system, because love is universal. Love is one of the things that unite us all, and is one thing we as humans all understand. What matters is, can and do we love our charges. I believe love should guide a shepherd’s actions, because it makes a good shepherd even better.
Currently, I have “God loves your sheep more than you do.” posted on the wall of my office. Someday, as my flock grows, I am going to have to build a barn. I long ago decided that I am going to carve those words into one of the beams. I can think of few things to contemplate on, more humbling, or more inspiring.