I’m a pastor. You may know this already but this word’s origin has nothing to do with church, praying, preaching and the like. When something was pastoral, it never evoked pictures of pews and pulpits. The word pastoral comes from background of farming, country land, tilling, gardening, and landscaping. It spoke of taking care of livestock, raising crops, working the land, and managing the seasons of a farm. Pastoral is synonymous with bucolic, idyllic, countryside, rural, and all things green.
You may notice that the word pasture comes from the same root word and when I think of pasture, I think of cow pies and cattle grazing chewing their cud out on a country hillside fenced in to keep them in and danger out. A pastor was a shepherd. So when people started hearing this term being thrown around for the leader of a church, visions of farming and farmland and farmhands and farm animals came to their mind. A pastor would lead like a shepherd; he would take care of the sheep (people) under his care by taking them to places to feed, looking out for water holes to satiate their thirst, making a fold for them to sleep protected while he laid at the door with one eye open for predators.
Before I get into all the things a shepherd does in the forthcoming blog entries, I just want to acknowledge as a pastor that I have a Pastor, a Shepherd. Often when you’re a pastor, you feel like no one is pastoring or shepherding you. You are helping others ‘wants’, but can often be left wanting yourself. In this passage, it’s clear that I have a Shepherd that knows my wants, my dreams, my desires. I don’t have to want anymore.
He is looking out for me while I’m looking out for everyone else. He is feeding me when I’m feeding everyone else. He is noticing unmet needs and wants while I have my finger on the pulse of everyone else’s wants. He is shepherding those hidden areas of longing, areas I’m even unaware of in my haste to take care of the flock under my care. I am in his flock/church and He is my Shepherd/Pastor.
He is a good one, too. When I stray from the path of righteousness, he uses his staff and rod to get me back on the path. He often has to “make me like down” in green pastures, and if he doesn’t make me, I won’t often do it. He leads me beside still waters, which is cool cause I’m used to choppy waters of relational conflict and internal emotional contradiction…stillness isn’t in my nature without a shepherd to take me there and make me lie down and be still. I’m just saying I’m glad I have a shepherd to look out for me, cause I need looking out for just like the next guy.
Back to the idea of “not wanting” because of his watch-care. I can’t begin to tell you how often this is the beginning of the end for a pastor in ministry. When a leader in a church forgets his own heart as he looks after the hearts of the masses, detrimental things occur, dark things. Life often becomes robotic and mechanic, lifeless and listless. You know what it’s like to have a friend that asks you how you’re doing and when you give the token response of “good” says to you, “no, how are you really doing?” Someone who cares about what’s under the hood. Someone who sees you as more than a production cranking out product. Someone who inquires of your deep heart uniquely inclined to explore the places of your hidden “want”. We often see “want” as evil because it’s set up to fail. “It’s not about your wants, it’s about your needs.” Things spoken like this disown desire like it’s the original sin, but I think ‘want’ is very closely tied to ‘will’, and ‘will’ is what makes us human. We have desires, we have ambitions, we have needs, we have longings.
There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick”. Yeah, that’s what I’m stabbing at. And the shepherd has a way of knowing the wants of his sheep (I love that the word sheep is plural and singular) and when you’re under his care, you have want of nothing. He meets you at your want and starts to shepherd you right there.
So I’m a pastor/shepherd who has a Pastor/Shepherd, I’m in his flock. He is looking after me and feeding me and nursing me back to health and making sure I get the care I need to be healthy.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”