A guest post by Abby Wahl, who, with her husband and kids, runs a sheep ranch.
This is part 2 of the “Be a Shepherd, Not a Sheepdog” series.
Sometimes we homeschool moms are sheepdogs, nipping at our sheep’s heels; Abby shows us how even sheepdogs can be faithful servants.
My Sheep Hear My Voice
A good sheepdog listens to his owner. He must wait for instructions, wait until the owner puts him to work. “Way back,” the herder says to his companion. The dog listens, running swiftly and with purpose. He begins to circle and work, his ears are alert, listening for calls and commands. It is beautiful and graceful.
The dog gathers the herd and he moves them toward the corrals. He must continue running back and forth, keeping a close watch and make countless course corrections. He must constantly steer the herd toward the place the shepherd has prepared.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, the dog stops listening. While putting pressure on the herd he gets too close and aggressive. A few sheep break free and scatter. The dog leaves his position and begins to chase, running after them in the wrong direction.
This not only causes the sheep stress but also brings chastisement and discipline upon the dog.
I am like that sheepdog, when I am listening and alert, praying and keeping my eyes fixed upon Jesus. I am keeping close to my children, making corrections, repeating over and over the same lessons and steering them toward God.
Unfortunately, I am also like that sheepdog when I am aggressively trying to control and force my will upon those around me. When I lose sight of my purpose as a parent, which is so easy to do in a moment of tension, I stop listening. I stop being obedient in the work He has set before me and I move out of my position of authority.
I chase, running in the wrong direction, causing stress and exasperation in my children when I attempt to wield authority that is not mine, but solely the Holy Spirit’s.
The shepherd has a plan and sees the whole picture. The dogs are his instruments used in gathering his sheep. He gathers so he can tend to them, move them to better pastures, or administer medicine. God has a plan, which my humanity can’t always comprehend, but I am comforted by God’s sovereignty.
My job as a parent is to turn toward Christ, to glorify God, submit to His will, be humble and to give grace.
Paul David Tripp states it this way:
Parents aren’t designed to produce change in the heart of their children. Parents are called to be a willing instrument in the hands of a loving Redeemer who alone has the ability to produce change.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children asks the question, “Who can change a sinner’s heart?” The answer: “The Holy Spirit alone.”
When I attempt to change my children, I am abdicating my own responsibility and trying to climb up and sit upon God’s throne.
We have been falling for the same trick since the beginning of time. Just like Adam and Eve, instead of obedience and submission to God, we want to be equal to Him. We are made in His image, but we are not God. We are His creations, that He made for His own glory, not our own.
I love metaphors and illustrations about sheep and shepherds. Both sides of our family come from a long line of sheep and cattle ranchers. Our children have started flocks of their own and are the fifth generation of sheep herders. So when I listened to Mystie talk about mothers being like sheepdogs, nipping at the heels of children, I was convicted. I was guilty of the same behavior.
Sheep are not known for their intellect and the dogs aren’t much better. Even well trained dogs still have limits. We have many sheepdogs and many sheep. Both require the watchful eye of the shepherd.
I must remember, sheep do not liked to be nipped at and neither do children. Instead of getting lost in the moment I must set my mind on things above, pray continuously, ask for wisdom, be thankful in all circumstances, and as Mystie says, “Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.”
The process of sanctification is always accompanied by growing pains and is never complete, this side of heaven.
Paul David Tripp gives this encouragement:
In every moment when you are parenting, you are being parented. In every moment when you are called to give grace, you are being given grace. In every moment when you are rescuing and protecting your children, you are being rescued and protected. In every moment when you feel alone, you are anything but alone because he goes wherever you go.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27
Simple and straightforward, but impossible without the guidance and grace of God.
This is my prayer for myself and all mothers:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21