Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I’ve heard a congregation referred to as a flock since I was little. Pastors tend to their flock. Maybe someone is part of a difficult flock. Perhaps there’s disagreement among some factions of the flock.

Anyway, when I think about God, it’s sometimes really profound. Ethereal, powerful, and completely sincere. But when I think about church (which is related to God, but a separate entity for me), I often think of grassy hillsides and frolicking sheep. This is perhaps a holdover from my immature views of worship and the dynamics thereof. Or maybe it makes me happy to represent a serious part of life as something precious and fun to visualize.

I met my pastor tonight. I sent him a note thanking him for his welcome letter (trying to deal with the Southern etiquette), and told him I’d like to get together to discuss opportunities for service. I did this not because I particularly wanted to serve or because I wanted to meet him. I asked for a meeting because I know myself.

I’m a shy sheep.

When I picture the bright green hill, full of grass to eat, sheep to play with, and trees under which to nap, I’m often off by myself. Nibbling on grass in an out of the way area – not wanting to intrude on parts of the meadow that belong to the other sheep.

I look over my white wooly shoulder at the groups of sheep, wondering what they’re talking about. Sometimes there are groups with brighter wool who are pawing the ground angrily as they glare at the sheep with better hooves. Differing ideas, often trivial, can ruin a flock. I roll my eyes as they fight over the best way to line up to get in the barn.

I like being alone with my thoughts. I smile at the lambs as they play, learning about their world, gathered around the shepherd and hearing simple stories. I let their soft bleats blend into the background when the shepherd speaks – still trying to learn myself.

I like gatherings. It makes me feel a part of the flock. Huddled into straight rows, singing together, standing and sitting in unison, bowing our heads, thinking about the greater good.

But after it’s over? I eagerly return to my sheepy solitude, finding an empty part of the hill where I can think and rest. I’ll stand in line to greet the shepherd personally after church, but I won’t hold up the other sheep as we file out into the sunshine. So I knew that I could go to church for years and never introduce myself.

So tonight, I ventured out, met him and his family. I like him. He’s very welcoming, seemed liberal enough to suit me, had funny stories, and was clear about where he hoped to grow. And he loves his flock – speaking highly of so many in such a short time. And he liked me – complimenting my thoughts, thanking me for the tulips I brought, offering me more coffee and additional invitations for time together and with other groups of special sheep.

I laughed and talked, stomach jumpy with pleasure at getting to bleat out my spiritual thoughts and questions and having people listen. Having stories directed at me personally rather than as one of a group. Making eye contact. Feeling connected to other sheep who love God and who are sincere in their desire to grow that part of themselves.

So I was thinking about me as a sheep on my drive home. How fluffy my wool is and how brightly my hooves might shine. How maybe the other sheep would like it if I shared their part of the meadow. Maybe I could run with them as they race down the hill.

I could even see myself with a small group of lambs again. We would play games, do crafts and talk about God. And I’d sit in awe as they answered deep questions and displayed characteristics that made them a better member of the flock than I often am.

The shy little sheep is going early next Sunday. I’ll go to a Sunday School class and try to introduce myself to some other sheep. I probably won’t say much – it takes time for me to feel comfortable enough to offer even a soft bleat. But maybe I’ll look around and realize I fit in, at least a little.

This is going to be my flock. At least for now. It’s thrilling to be noticed – to have someone ask questions and try to make me laugh. So I like being alone, free to contemplate the meaning of why we’re all here and what we should be doing. But I need to venture out and join the other sheep at times. Maybe they know more than I do. Or at least have the ability to make me smile and feel part of a pretty cool flock.


bernice chao said...

I clicked the "next blog" icon for the first time and I stumbled on your blog. I like your entry about being a shy sheep, I feel that way there too

post-doc said...

Thank you - for commenting at all and for such a sweet compliment!

I thought any response to this post would include something about me being kind of weird, so I'm pleasantly surprised. :)

MplsJu said...

Y'know, taking the initiative to become part a group has always been one of my weak points, too. It IS easier to watch the group than to be a part of it - but sometimes, the extra effort can be worth it. Congrats on taking the first step!

J. Dryden said...

You're much, much too hard on yourself. More people are shy than not--and if you think back over your life, I'll bet that you realize that the shy ones tend to be the ones who, once coaxed out, are the sweet and kind and sensitive folks who become the best friends (or at least most pleasant acquaintances.) So there's no shame in being shy--and in trying to overcome that shyness, you're showing a confidence and initiative that some of us (cough, cough) have never quite summoned up. Well done.

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