I’ve realised that what first triggered me along the path of awakening. It was the attitudes of the elders toward me. They’d always treated me well, until my late teens when I became a “troubled youth”. This was when I truly became disillusioned with the organisation. I’d expected that in such circumstances, the elders would gather around, take a personal interest, try to reach this wayward sheep. No sir! They removed my “privileges” without reason, treated me with contempt and told my friends to avoid me. At the very time I needed them most, they abandoned me.
And I hadn’t done anything against the rules. I was just “troubled”, as brooding teens may be.
I’m not saying that I expected a pity-party, but I had issues, and I’d been led to believe that these men were responsible of taking care of such people. Many have been advised not to seek professional help; instead to rely on “Jehovah’s arrangement”.
Nobody cared. That was a hard life lesson, but one learned well.
I went off on my own, sorted myself out, discovered a love of life, but I’d lost all respect for the elders. When I finally did break the rules, these would be the last people I’d turn to. If they treated me with such ill-regard when I was a sheep who’d wandered a little off the road, how much less would they care to shepherd when I approached them a little battered?
These were not men who forsook the flock to search for the precious, lost sheep Jesus spoke of in Luke 15. These men watched the animal wander astray, turning their attention back to the flock to ensure none followed. These men watched the sheep slipping away and scorned it for daring step out on its own. Should it ever return, they wouldn’t welcome it back like the prodigal son, but would make sure it suffered further still.
Should that little sheep ever find his way back, wishing only to gather among his family for love and warmth, these shepherds would sneer at his bruises and blood-caked fleece. They would nudge him to the back of the flock, to walk behind the others so that no one could pay him any attention. The little sheep would limp after the others for months and years without medical attention, constantly fearful, the most likely to be picked off by wolves. Should he survive through tenacity alone, become healthy again despite being ignored by the ones he holds most dear, then maybe, just maybe, he would be allowed back into the flock. But he’d be made to suffer well.
The little sheep would go through his life, never quite treated the same. He’d be regarded with suspicion from the flock and the shepherds alike. Eventually he would wander away to fend for himself in the fields, to be beaten and bruised, if only to escape those who disparaged him. Again, the shepherds wouldn’t trouble themselves to stop him. The flock would jeer and mock the tainted sheep. They would nudge each other and say, ‘See, the dog who goes back to its vomit? He was never to be trusted. We always knew he was no good.’
Throughout the years that followed, the shepherds would occasionally go out into the field, seek out the little sheep where he hid in caves, shaking, black with mud and blood and abandonment. They would make a show of welcoming him back, but the invitation was never true. He would be welcomed back, but only to walk behind the others, as they whispered, kicking dirt up in his face.
He’d prefer to take his chances alone.
Yes, I saw how the elders treated wayward sheep and it had no representation in Luke 15. If you’ve wandered once, even dared to place a single hoof off the trail, you will never see freedom from the shepherds’ persecution and suspicion. You are tainted.
This little sheep will find his
love among the goats.