From one tuft of green grass to another, a sheep is concerned about filling his own stomach, satisfying his own appetites. When the green grass ends, will he be among friends? Will the tufts of grass be able to come back, or will he have destroyed them all?
What characteristic of sheep is the reason for using the analogies related to sheep as in “the LORD is my shepherd”, “Jesus, the Lamb of God” and “the Good Shepherd”, and humanity as “sheep who have gone astray”? Is it the innocence of sheep? The stupidity?
Increasingly, I see the analogy being an accurate one for the way we feed our appetites. Where the green grass is, there we will go. When we have consumed it all, we move to other places. We consume to the point of destruction of the pasture, the habitat. When it is unlivable, we take from some one else’s pasture.
We use up family and friends. We use up the earth’s resources. We use up our own bodies in the quest for pleasure without purpose.
If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, do you jump the fence or find out how they made the lawn so green and work to make your lawn look like that? When I see a church that is going well, I can either wish I could get a position there, or I could look after the church I have and make it as healthy as any other.
Many animals seem to have no more concerns in life than to eat and reproduce. Humans have more complex lives. We should be able to see beyond ourselves. We have learned to produce more food than we need for ourselves, so much so that we have troubles with diets of excess. We have trouble with lifestyles bent on consuming resources, accumulating wealth and pursuing pleasure.
We can become so focused on feeling pleasure that we destroy other necessary aspects of our lives for the sake of the drugs, the sex or the adrenaline rush we crave. We have eaten our way lost.
Our visions of faith that look beyond our appetites help us to balance our present with the known needs of others and the needs of our own futures.
Somewhere between Search for the Lost Ark and Wizard of Oz we realize that there is no place like home but to make that home a good place takes work. Home is not necessarily where your parents are. It is wherever you are. It is your living space, your circle of friends, and your planet earth. It is your heart, your appetite, and your mind.
Your Good Shepherd is one like you who has learned to balance individual needs and desires with the needs for community and environment. Pursuing only our desires will surely be nibbling your way lost. Putting back in a concern for the human community and earthly habitat will guide us into making our pastures green once more.