A shepherd doesn't feed his sheep...at least not the biblical kind. He does not bring food to them, rather he brings them to food. He does not cut, rake and bail the green pastures hauling blocks of hay to the barn broadcasting it to the huddled flock. No he leads them to green pastures and lets them roam about the hillside nibbling the vegetation themselves. No pastor ever feeds his flock, really. He simply leads them to the meadow.
He doesn't scoop up water in a bucket and bring it to them, the Scriptures are clear that a shepherd leads them beside still waters. He does the hard work to find these pastures and waters that are green and still, but the feeding and drinking aren't his responsibility. The sheep must take it from there.
In Psalm 23 is goes on to say that a shepherd "restores souls". His purpose for leading to the feeding is to bring nourishment to the core places, not just superficial quick fixes and artificial placebos of peace. No, his ambition is to bring restoration to the "sheepish" soul.
He journeys with them through the shadows of death, guiding them with his staff, chiding them with his rod. When a rod of pain is felt, the sheep knows the shepherd only inflicts hurt to prevent hurt. When the staff of guidance is felt, the sheep knows the shepherd with never nudge them to a place he hasn't traversed himself...they can trust that his staff of direction has gone to the point to which it's pointing.
I love being a shepherd. I don't always feel like a good one, nor am I saying that today I perfectly incarnated Psalm 23 in its fullness. But, by golly, I felt pretty darn close in certain moments.
I heard someone say last week that a "good shepherd" smells like his sheep. I hope that can be said of me. I hope I stay so close with them in their valleys and vistas that when I stand before God he doesn't just say, "Well done!", but that he also smiles with a crooked smirk and says, "You stink!"
I love the sheep under my care. They are not my sheep, I'm taking care of them for the Good Shepherd. I feel privileged to do so and for some reason I'm feeling very shepherdly today.