by Rebecca Dwinell
One morning Coach Jose and I were bringing five little kindergartners to the gym. They were warned not to go in front of Jose or behind me as we walked. A few times they tested the limits, straying just a little ahead of their coach. When they did, Jose would immediately stop in his tracks, and they’d giggle and fall back in line. This happened over and over again. Once we were in the gym, I helped Jose set up an obstacle course and he explained the rules. The kids obeyed and went around the course several times, giggling and chattering amongst themselves. They were having a blast!
At one point, I wondered, “Why do I feel so calm? I usually feel a little stressed out when I’m teaching kids.” I thought about what Coach Jose was doing. First, he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in this gym class and he was confident about his plan. I didn’t have to do any planning. All I had to do was what he asked me to do. Then, he practiced firm love. He kept solid, reasonable boundaries for the kids so they would stay within the limits of the obstacle course and on track with his plan. At the same time, he wasn’t overly strict. He clearly had a deep affection for them—he knew each one of them and their limits, enjoyed being with them, kept a diligent eye on them, and gave them the exercise and fun that they needed and wanted.
I realized that Coach Jose is so much like the Good Shepherd. Look at what the Good Shepherd does: He has the perfect plan for our lives. He practices firm love with us—He gives us His Word to establish boundaries for life that keep us from spiritual harm. He knows us and our limits. He loves and enjoys us, always watching over us. He cares for each of our needs at just the right time.
God shows Himself as the Good Shepherd, and then gives us the opportunity to reflect Him by being good shepherds ourselves. Here’s how we can mimic the Good Shepherd for the kids in our flock.
First, we need to get into position: Let’s get as close to the Good Shepherd as possible. When we meditate on His Word, talk with Him and listen for His still, small voice, we become aware of what He’s asking us to do. He already has the perfect plan, and all we have to do is be ready to do what He asks. Over time, our heart begins to look more like His.
Once we have our heart in place, we can cultivate firm love for kids. Think about the kids in your life. When was the last time you simply had fun with them—no agenda, nothing to accomplish; just spending time together? Those times are precious; they allow you to get to know those kids and their needs intimately. During those times, God blesses you with a bit of His perspective: He delights in His sheep, and we can delight in those kids in the same way.
When good shepherds know and love their sheep, they know how to prepare for shepherding. The Good Shepherd is a God of order. We reflect Him when we take time to carefully plan our lesson times. What are some ways to improve in our preparation? Maybe we need to budget our time better so we can study a Bible passage more in depth or think through all the steps and materials needed. Even though it makes me feel a little awkward, I know my teaching is much better if I practice the lesson out loud a couple times. Our love for the kids in our flock is reflected by how much we put into preparation.
Part of that preparation includes thinking through the boundaries we need to set up for them. How can we help them stay on track so we can meet their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs? What behaviors are “off-track”? What warnings and penalties are appropriate? There are times when kids sin, but there are also times when kids are just being kids. Our Good Shepherd uses the rod of His Word to confront us and guide us back to His plan for our lives. Ultimately, those boundaries give us stability and direction. You show love when you give kids solid boundaries.
I’m so thankful for Coach Jose’s example to help me understand the Good Shepherd. What if we reflected the Good Shepherd so well to the kids in our lives that one day, they couldn’t help but think of us as they learn about the Good Shepherd?
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