Life Shepherds

“Now I’m thinkin’: it could mean you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could be you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.”
– Samuel L. Jackson as “Jules” in Pulp Fiction

I didn’t start seeing the words “life coach” until I began following the Manival. Many of the blog contributors to that weekly carnival describe themselves as a life coach. I have nothing against the title as a profession or a hobby, but seeing those words made me think, “Why don’t people just get a pastor?”

The word pastor means shepherd, and I’ve had the same pastor for more than 20 years now. He, along with who and what he represents, have played an important role in my thinking and actions today. His teaching and his example have greatly contributed to the success of my marriage, my relationships with my kids and my employers and co-workers, my finances and has provided me with the peace and confidence to channel the abilities that were given to me into new and positive areas. Of course I realize that not everyone has this same advantage, though I consider it to be a necessity rather than a luxury. It makes me even more appreciative of the “coaching” that I’ve received.

Isn’t this what you’d want in a coach — a teacher, exhorter, advisor, someone to comfort you in the trials and discomfort you when you’re getting complacent? I have been led into green pastures and to still waters and in the paths of righteousness. My soul has been comforted, even when it looked as if I was surrounded by things that wanted to kill my spirit, and I have sat comfortably at the table with my enemes, willing and able to share goodness and mercy.

Of course what some might call coaching, and others might call mentoring, the church calls discipleship. And one of the things that I’ve been taught is that even as I am continually discipled I need to be always reaching out and discipling others. As I continue to learn and grow I need to be willing to help others do the same. It’s become so engrained in me that I hardly notice that I’m doing it, but I can see it in the interactions I have with our multiple-church men’s group, the “Fundamentals in Film” class I’ve been doing for more than two years with a group of teen-age boys, and the upcoming “How to be Marriageable” group, and in some of the surprising relationships that have developed in my life. Futhermore, while my blog is mainly for my own amusement, it also plays a role in this.

Even so, like Jules in the quote above, I sometimes have to try real hard to get out of my comfort zones, habits and selfishness to be a shepherd, and that’s where having an older, more experienced shepherd comes in handy. That, too, however requires letting go of some selfishness, or at least, self-interest. I’ve not been one who lays down his pride easily or who likes to admit that I don’t have all the answers — at least not audibly. Oh sure, I can curse myself and my perceived failings to no end internally or under my breath, but admitting it out loud is a lot harder. I think that’s not an uncommon attitude and probably the biggest reason so many people have not allowed themselves to be discipled/mentored/coached. It’s all too easy and common to merely want everyone else to change while we stay the same.

And we’re deceived, of course. The fact is we will all be discipled by someone or something, even if we don’t realize that it’s happening. The only choice we have is deciding who/what it is we will follow.

I figure that I’ve probably got enough experience (good and bad), accumulated wisdom and random revelation to hang out a shingle as a Life Coach, but I don’t know if that’s something I want to be, professionally, as opposed to something I just do day-in and day-out with whoever happens to be coming along. I do have a well-paying corporate drone job that I’ve thought of ditching from time to time. It more than covers our bills, however, which allows me the time and freedom to pursue these other activities that are more satisfying, if apparently unremunerative. I suppose I could try to do these things professionally but most of the people I’ve become connected with aren’t in a position to “pay” me in ways that the mortgage company and Visa recognize.

I don’t know that I’ll ever “go pro” — especially when it’s been so much fun to be an enthusiastic amateur!

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