I wrote the following column for the West Nebraska Register. The column appeared in the December 19, 2008 issue of the West Nebraska Register.
We have a standing joke in our Real Men’s Group. (We call ourselves Real Men’s because we meet at 6:30 am every Wednesday.) Whenever we read a scripture story or passage in our current book refereeing to sheep, the other members of the group look at me and smile. “I’m not a sheep I’ve been knows to say!” With more energy than appropriate. They just laugh!
They know because I’ve protested way to often the metaphor of sheep is lost on me. Even though I’ve lived in Nebraska an agricultural state amid center pivots and herds of Charolais I am a “city boy”. I’m such a “city boy” that I once suggested to a dairy farmer that it would be fun if the electricity went off so we could milk the cows by hand.—-oh my! Need I say more?
When the authors of scripture told stories using sheep to make their point they knew their audience understood their point beyond the literal knowledge of sheep. I don’t. Sheep and herding were part of their lived experience and no amount of study will make up for my lack of experience with sheep.
The other members of our SCC try to fill in the missing points. “Don, it’s like this” they might say. They’ve even tried to help me understand some of the unique characteristics of a sheep or should I say idiosyncrasies all to no avail. They’ve nearly given up on trying, “Oh sheep again” they say simply to head off my words of protest.
In our community I work to seek understanding. The US Bishops in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” talk about a living faith as a “searching faith. They say, “Adults need to question, probe, and critically reflect on the meaning of God’s revelation in their unique lives to grow closer to God.” (OHWB #52)
SCCs like Real Men’s create environments for searching described by the bishops.
The community helps me extract the meaning pointed to by stories and the sheep metaphors. Jim asked, “What metaphor would you put in its place?” The point isn’t always to replace the metaphor but to let the Word touch and change my heart. The community helps me avoid corralling myself in the metaphor and to hearing at the deeper level.
What metaphor might you suggest?