Monday, December 31, 2012

So, what feeds the sheep?

The story in which Jesus instructs Peter to “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep” is well known.  In the past I have skimmed over this instruction, assuming I knew what it meant, but reading it recently I found myself with questions:

Do I know what “feeds” and what doesn’t?
When I am being “fed,” do I recognize it?

I think I am best fed when I hear or read something that immediately fills a specific soul-need of mine.  When that happens, I know it is a miracle and a tender mercy from God because hardly ever does the speaker or writer know of my need as they deliver the words that feed me.

I remember one specific instance--although there have been many before and since, this one sticks out—when a Thanksgiving dinner’s worth of doctrine was lobbed specifically in my direction by a youth speaker in church.  It was custom-cooked for me to chew on and to be inspired by.  There is no way that young girl could have known the obstacles I was facing, but she fed me.  I am forever grateful for that.

What about when I’m supposed to be lobbing the doctrinal turkey dinners?  Do I know what feeds and what doesn’t?  Heh, I’d like to think I do.  Doctrine, testimony, personal experiences illustrating specific principles, scripture..   Yet none of it is well-delivered without the Holy Ghost.  Trying to make a sensation doesn’t work; it feels flat and dead, even if it intrigues.  Usually I know when I’ve fed the sheep when I feel satisfaction about the message I’ve shared.  It’s kind of a light feeling, one that is unconnected with bodily sensations; I couldn’t point to any particular place in my body that this sense of satisfaction comes from. 

 And there is so much spiritual striving involved that it can get overwhelming at times.  For example:
  • I want to share what I’ve learned, but I fear becoming pedantic.
  • I wonder if I’m only tickling the intellect rather than feeding the soul.
  • I second-guess myself to try to see if I’m really edifying enough.
  • I find myself holding back when I haven’t found how it can make a difference to people, but too much holding back starts to feel inhibiting.
  • I ask myself if I’ve thought everything through as I should or whether there are unexplored avenues that I have missed.
  • I ask myself if I’m being overly judgmental of myself or others..
  • I ask myself if I’m willing to do and be what I’m writing about or am I just saying something just to get a post done?
[insert agonizing writer noises here]

But I can also step back and realize that I’m not the only one who feels this.  I suppose that every teacher in the church who feels a deep obligation to feed their class a doctrinal feast goes through this same struggle as they prepare.  I suppose that every one who wants to write something inspiring experiences the same agony of creation and satisfaction at completion.  And when I realize that, I just wish I could thank every single one of you for the good you do, day after day, week after week, month after month..  I just want to cry with gratitude that there are so many voices for good, so many lights shining, so many pouring out the living waters. 

Will you tell me about your struggle to feed the sheep?


Ramona Gordy said...

Happy New Years Michaela
What a good question. I love the "mind picture" of Jesus on the beach, the smell fish cooking, maybe some warm bread, a toasty fire. Yumm;and after Peter has eaten and is feeling good, maybe he wants to take a nap, and Jesus lobs him between the eyeballs, with the command to "feed his sheep". I have thought about this often, especially since I am a Primary teacher. I have the awesome responsibility to teach God's little lambs, the babies, whose spirits and minds are just starting to form and gel. I realize that the best way for me to teach them, is to pray for guidance, and also pray that their parents are also teaching them something. I have also realized that in Primary and also at times with adults, I start with a simple and basic formula, usually with a question and answer period, because if I have prayed enough, and my heart is in tune with the Spirit, then the questions will lead me to introduce the subject matter, and then more questions that lead to a shared experience, and then that can lead to introducing points of doctrine that apply to the lesson. I have found myself wanting to teach like the Savior, in patience and in love for those I am teaching, and also in using parables or shared experiences.
Sometimes I have a lot to share, but if they can not "receive", I try to find a "point", and bring that point to the lesson. I may even ask the class to think about that point, by sharing a scripture and inviting them to do the same.
So I guess in my own "struggle" to feed/teach, I have to ask the question: How would the Savior teach this lesson?"

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, I'm glad you have that sense of mission to teach your primary class as the Savior would. That will definitely lead you aright. There are people who for whatever reason don't feel up to that calling.