This is a picture of one of my chickens…
(former chickens God rest her little soul). I’m sorry for the graphic nature of the image but it serves to make a point.
My nephew moved 8 chickens onto his new property adjacent to mine a few weeks back, and I have become a sort of Shepherd to the “flock”. Every time they see me or hear me whistle they come waddling to me as fast as they can, hoping to receive some edible token of my affection.
It’s funny how animals of all sorts can work their way into your heart without you even noticing when it actually happened. The other day I walked outside and did my routine “counting chicken heads” and noticed one missing.
Two of the flock often wander off alone. They have a tenancy to be a little “bitty” and get easily irritated at each other for silly things which causes them to separate themselves for periods of time. It is a tendency which has concerned me a little, though I never thought I’d loose one.
My nephew was working on his property at the time and joined me in looking for the lone bird. Not long into the search, he called me and the tone in his voice told me all I needed to know.
I found myself sad at first, feeling a little guilty next (as if it were possible to be with them 24/7) and finally a little angry. “Why did it have to go wandering off all by itself? Didn’t it realize there is relative safety in the flock?”
These thoughts churned in my heart piecemeal over the next few days and I realized that the Lord was speaking to me through this unfortunate event.
Many…MANY Christian’s are just like these birds. People get easily offended, angry, hurt, irritated and self-interested and in a foolish stab at independence they separate themselves. Sometimes for a few days…sometimes for a lifetime!
I guess I’ve probably heard every “justification” out there for separating from a congregation in my 45 years of being a Christian. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched this happen and hear the excuses for “neglecting the company of the assembly (local church)”. From “the pastor hurt my feelings” to “I can’t believe we are starting another building project” and everything in between. I want to tell them, how dangerous it is to separate from a local assembly of believers where they can know and be known. “Don’t they know there is relative safety in the flock?”
In today’s world, Christians believe they can substitute attending church with watching a message on TV at home. Substitute the assembly of believers in a local congregation with “Christian friends” and substitute the spiritual leadership and oversight of a loving Pastor with books and the counsel of peers. These are monstrous substitutions which reveal a poor grasp of the nature and purpose for the local assembly and the sacred relationship between sheep and their shepherds.
Committing yourself to a local community of believers is as much about giving as it is about receiving…and it is FILLED with flawed people for 2 primary reasons:
- Because humans (including you) are there…
- Because it is in an environment of flawed…yet loving Christians were we can grow and mature into Christ’s image THROUGH the suffering we sometimes go through. To avoid this is to avoid maturity.
Jesus…the Lord and only TRUE Shepherd of the sheep felt it necessary to appoint Shepherds over assemblies to lead and feed, care and guide IN THE SAME WAY as He appointed each believer TO a local church for commitment, connectedness, investing in others and regular encouragement.
There is no substitute for this communal relationship of knowing and trusting. Will you get hurt? Of course you will, but the answer is not to avoid, maintain bitterness in your heart or become your own heart’s protector – it is to commit yourself to God in doing good as to a Faithful Creator Who will both heal your heart and mend your Christian relationships with others.
Jesus Himself told us that if we think we have closeness with God while maintaining distance from ANY Christian we are fooling ourselves.
I walked outside this morning and counted only 7 little chicken heads and so took a sad walk to the place where the one lost it’s life by wandering off alone. I snapped this photo as a reminder to never protect my own heart from hurts or disappointments. To remain kind, loving & connected…even when it hurts and makes me vulnerable…perhaps especially when it hurts and makes me vulnerable.
A protected heart is a lonely heart – cut off from love and life and all the good it’s Creator wants to bestow upon it.
Lord teach me the wisdom to live with my heart wide open, to never separate myself nor protect in my own strength what only You can truly keep safe.