Anyone that knows me knows that I have a few rules I live by—carry your own weight, work hard, care for the poor, love Jesus and do not mess with my children. I want my kids to know that I will fight hard for them at all cost. I am sure if you asked them, they would tell you stories of me embarrassing them, marching into the school office or calling their teacher or telling the 5-year-old diva in the park to stop flirting with my kindergartener son. Bottom line—don’t mess with my kids and we will be good. But mess with them, and it is on!
I have been reflecting lately on what it means to be a shepherd of a flock—especially as it relates to shepherding my kids. In my mind’s eye, I originally pictured a peaceful, serene, green pasture and tender, obedient, clean sheep. There was a lot of lounging in green pastures and it was restful and gentle. Though that would be a nice scene to live into, that is not what it means to shepherd this flock God has entrusted me with. I was praying with some friends the other night and I realized that the shepherding scene that I am called to live into is that of a watchful, fierce shepherd that fights lions and bears and pulls my sheep out of the grip of ferocious claws and jaws. That scene is a lot less restful and serene! I have scrapes, I am bleeding, dirty, and weary. It’s not something to take lightly!
Last year, God expanded my shepherding role—something I wasn’t asking for at the time. I kept having this stirring in my heart and could almost hear an audible voice, “Shepherd your daughters and their friends together, Erika. Teach them the word of God, help them grow up in grace and beauty as they traverse the early teenage years.” I resisted it for a long while. I do not feel particularly gifted in teaching and truthfully, I have my hands full raising my own three kids among the millions of other things I am involved with! But the stirring persisted, until I could not ignore the prompt anymore. So I obeyed and started my own girls’ Bible study and mentoring club. As I did, I realized, “Oh yes, I am supposed to shepherd this flock and by extension for now, it includes not only my girls but their friends.” I am to be a strong, watchful, fierce shepherd of a diverse, loud, hilarious, and unruly group of sheep.
I didn’t expect the excitement in which these girls come to group. Their attendance has been 100% perfect. And though there are times when their attention span is short and they'd rather talk about their latest crushes than the Bible (by the way do not serve a large jug of lemonade to 11-year-old girls if you want their attention), I have continued to be blown away by them. They listen to the word, digest it, repeat it to me, apply it, and share it. It’s simple discipleship. And its multiplying. They are telling others. Other girls want to join. Each week it seems there is some discussion about so and so wanting to join our group. At the end of each Wednesday afternoon, I ask them to pick one person in their life they will tell the scripture to.
One of my girls from Nepal (one census I read recently said the country is only 0.45% Christian) said that she wanted to tell her grandmother. The following week she eagerly reported that she sent the printed passage in the mail to both of her Nepali grandmothers. And one of her grandmothers asked if she could keep sending her more Bible passages to read! This young member of my flock wanted her grandmothers to be proud she was learning the Bible and learning about God! Absolutely unbelievable! I am continually humbled to watch these young girls share unashamed what they are learning to family, teachers, and friends.
Though my sheep are not calm, the scene is not serene, and I am not resting in green pastures, I would take this over comfort any day. I will continue to be watchful, faithful, and fierce in teaching and guarding these tender hearts even if I have to pry them from the grip of a lion or bear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erika Philip and her husband Michael live in Aurora, CO, with their three kids. Michael and Erika are pioneering the new InnerCHANGE Denver team, with a specific focus on the needs of the refugee community in the East Colfax neighborhood. Erika serves the community as a trauma counselor in addition to roles in disciple-making and community development with InnerCHANGE.