catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 9 :: 2005.05.06 — 2005.05.19


All we like sheep

Scripture uses many metaphors for God toward helping us understand God?s character through everyday relationships?God as a father, God as a mother hen, God as a good shepherd, God as a rock, God as a king.

For me, the father and shepherd metaphors are intertwined and I didn?t realize the connection until a few months ago while singing Handel?s ?All We Like Sheep? from the Messiah. The vocal parts flit and twist around one another in seemingly endless frolicking. ?All we like sheep, all we like sheep, all we like sheep have gone astra-a-a-ay; and we have tu-u-u-u-u-rn?d every one to his own way.? Handel masterfully lures both the singer and the listener into a sense of oblivious playfulness and then orchestrates a grave realization with a surprise ending. Suddenly, playtime is over with the heaviness of the music and the words: ?And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.?

This song gives me some idea of how I sadden God with my bold inattentiveness. I trivialize God?s boundless love as I carelessly judge who and what is beyond redemption. I foolishly mimic another?s actions and lifestyles even while the Shepherd is clearly calling me to a better way. I am easily distracted from the promise of eternity by my time bound ego. A shepherd of silly, filthy sheep is a fitting image for the spiritual Father of a child such as myself.

And yet, by grace, there is something endearing even about a sheep and God willingly names me a beloved child. In spite of the pain I cause, I belong. This fact parallels the relationship between a parent and a child, but more specifically, I think, the relationship between an adoptive parent and an adopted child. While adoption can become a necessity for many painful and broken reasons, the act at its best is tangibly redemptive. There is no biological obligation on either side. Rather, there is a choosing that takes place in spite of the child?s incomprehension. And there is no doubt joy in the heart of the parent when the child shows signs of choosing in return. The family becomes identified not by the sharing of genes, but by the presence of the Spirit.

I don?t know anything yet of being on the parent side of this relationship. However, I can confess my shortcomings as a child, including (but not limited to) my lapses in gratitude, my tendency to make every gathering about myself and my sense of competitiveness with my brothers and sisters. Thank God for artists like Handel who can remind me that all of my infantile attempts at self-preservation deny the larger reality of atonement. Thank God for the example of a perfect Brother who shows me the obedient way through suffering to eternal gratitude in communion with my true family.

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