The one who keeps you will not slumber. The Holy One will neither slumber nor sleep. - Psalm 121:3-4
Herding sheep is hard work.
Recently a shepherd in Spain fell asleep on the job and, before you could say goodnight, some 1,300 sheep were wandering through a nearby town, walking down the street as if they owned the place. Fast-acting police rounded up the wayward woolies and returned them to their pastures before the snoozing shepherd even knew they were missing.
The shepherd may not have known, but the rest of the world soon did. His story went viral, and all over social media my friends had an, um, field day. I laughed, too—at first. And then: Wait. I do that all the time.
I've also been known to go astray, a spiritual condition that leaves me wondering how I can possibly shepherd someone else. I worry that my "flock" will discover I'm a fraud—purporting to lead them to God on a day when I forgot to pray, tending to details instead of hearts, falling asleep when I'm supposed to be taking care.
Yes, it's a mixing of metaphors—because our lives are a mixture of roles.
One minute we're the stressed-out shepherd doing all we can to make sure no one in our charge gets lost or hurt or left out or treated unjustly (whew!), and the next we're a wayward lamb just trying to find its way home. Pastors or parents, partners or friends, teachers or managers, all of us are sheep in shepherds' clothing.
So whenever you're feeling sheepish (or just overwhelmed), take heart: You really can't do it all—and you're not meant to. Let yourself nod off sometimes, knowing that the Good Shepherd neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my flock to keep. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.