In the Christian calendar today is coined “Good Shepherd Sunday”. It is the metaphor of Jesus being the good shepherd looking after his flock and protecting it from wolves contrasted with the hired hand who doesn’t have the same level of commitment as the Good Shepherd. The hired hand leaves the sheep to their own devices and unable to protect themselves from the nasty wolves who come and make a meal out of them and scatter them to the four winds. The wolves come regardless of who is caring for the flock, but the Good Shepherd is vigilant and knows how to keep the baddies at bay. In this year of self compassion, I was reflecting on how I can be a Good Shepherd to myself, gathering up all the parts of me scattered and at the mercy of wolves ready to tear me apart. The wolves do come in sheep’s clothing sometimes too, masquerading and sneaking into my sacred safe places and a shepherd’s vigilance is required to keep me from harm. Sometimes it is thoughts, other times actions, sometimes it is places, sounds and smells that trigger the alarm that a wolf is on its way and reading the signs to nip it in the bud as a form of self-protection requires considerable shepherding.
As the oft-quoted Audre Lorde has said:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
The political act of being your own shepherd, to notice the wolves that find their home even inside of you, pretending to be sheep, to notice sheep following trusting and finding their way to safety whatever the conditions, to be faithful to the call and know the voice of the one calling you home … maybe to hear yourself into speech and recognise yourself as a good shepherd not to others, but to yourself.
In these vulnerable times I find myself in, it is a political act to be my own shepherd, and the hardest flock to care for are all the parts of me I would prefer to give over to a hired hand. Those parts of me once in exile are coming home. Time for vigilance and for me to shelter from those wolves eager to pull me apart and for me to dig deep to access my inner good shepherd guard.
Shepherds work alone
I don’t want a solitary shepherd
I want a flock of Good Shepherds
Not a flock of sheep.
Lorde writes in “Eye to Eye” in Sister Outsider says “We can practice being gentle with each other by being gentle with that piece of ourselves that is hardest to hold, by giving more to the brave bruised girlchild within each of us.” Giving more when there is so little left to give to oneself, to turn inwards is what the shepherd does – turning towards the sheep to bring them all home safely and in one piece. Banishing the wolves may not be possible, they will always be lurking and on high alert, ready to attack and leave a trail of indiscriminate destruction. A discipline is required in this year of self compassion. It is a practice and a muscle that needs regular exercise to get stronger. It has to happen on hillsides, exposed to the elements, open to move with the seasons and from time to time will require going to ground depending on the weather. Right now I am in a storm and I am looking for a cave in which to rest til it blows over, bringing my sheep with me and hiding from circling wolves.
Ironically, I spent a lot of my early years and left home to marry from Shepherd Street and the suburb was Ridgehaven. I love how even the stones will shout and actors in our lives continue to permeate time and space … such is the cosmic conversation. The brave girlchild is still in there somewhere getting her Bo Peep act together for self-care and political action.