Herding Cats

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

–          Isaiah 53:6


Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, they will all return to their own people, they will flee to their native land.

–          Isaiah 13:14


“Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares His people to sheep, not to cattle.

“It is especially important that Christian ministers know the law of the leader – that he can lead others only as far as he himself has gone. …”

–          Rev. A. W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect


Well, the family is gone, each to their native land, as Isaiah puts it above.  We had one family, but really three families under the same roof.  This past week was Spring Break in Nebraska and in the corner of Tennessee that was important to us.  The two taking college courses had to do homework and make-up work for the time missed (on-line), but everyone came.  It is the first time that we had everyone under one roof.  The grandchildren are 20, 17, 9, 5, and 3 as of this writing.  With that much diversity under one roof, it was like herding cats.


My wife and I take showers at night.  Our younger son insists that his children take showers (9)/baths (5/3) at night.  Everyone else took their showers in the morning.  Picture a couple of mornings.  I’ll paint the scene.  My wife and I are ready to go at the scheduled time, but I haven’t washed the dishes.  I am waiting for the showers to stop, so that they don’t get a cold shower once I start washing.  But we plan on leaving at 10:00am.  When is the first shower? 9:45am.  By noon, the showers are finished.  I throw some lukewarm, soapy water on top of the frying pan to soak.  By now, breakfast is already stuck to the non-stick surface, and I go for the door to get everyone moving.  If you must know, I was brought up to think that arriving 15 minutes early was actually arriving late.  Then, someone has to go to the bathroom.  The door between the snowy exterior and the warm house is opened 15 times (only 11 people), because each realizes that they need to go to the bathroom also, or they forgot something.  I am thinking that by the time we get to our destination, we will get caught in afternoon rush hour before we get back, if not on the way there.  It was like herding cats.


I was raised in a family of three children, but my siblings were much older.  By the fourth grade, I was essentially an only child.  Soon after my twelfth birthday, I was an uncle.


My wife had four brothers and four sisters.  There were eleven in her home growing up.  There were eleven of us at our impromptu reunion, counting the grandchildren.  She loves herding cats.  It reminded her of her youth.  She had not been this happy in years.  It didn’t bother her that nothing was done on time.  She didn’t mind the pile of dishes that was constantly being washed just in time to form the next pile.  It did bother her that everyone had to leave.  Two had jobs to go back to.  Two had college classes to attend.  One is in high school, two more in elementary (4th grade and K).  The only two that could have stayed was the creative writer / entrepreneur and the three-year-old.  Everyone else had a schedule.


But while they were here, my daily dose of Tozer hit upon the concept of driving cattle, but leading sheep.


The concept of herding cats is an old joke (and old TV commercial).  Cats resist being herded, thus pure folly to try to herd them.


Cattle may bellow, but they will accept the command of the cowboy or farmer that herds, or drives, them here or there.  To drive cattle, you stand behind and nudge them to go in the right direction.


Sheep are different.  Sheep can be herded by dogs, but only because they are afraid of the dog.  But sheep will follow the head-sheep and the shepherd.  If the sheep follow the shepherd, the shepherd must be out front.  You cannot lead unless you travel the ground ahead of the sheep.


Tozer goes on beyond the quote above to state that when a leader (not necessarily the preacher) tries to lead where they have not been, he/she gets frustrated and starts to drive, or herd, the flock into an experience that they themselves have not experienced.  This leads to the ‘minister’ (either lay or paid) to throw up their hands in disgust.


When I was in the Army, I started as a platoon leader, and I was offered the job as a company commander about a year later.  (I did not take the job as the company commander, because I would have had to extend my time in Europe and work beyond the end of my military commitment.  It was also the company where I had been a platoon leader and executive office.  There was too much familiarity there.)


My reason for bring this up is that a platoon leader leads, while a company commander commands.  I saw a bio on one of the civilians working in the defense department.  He was said to have been a ‘platoon commander.’  If he was, he wasn’t a good one.  A leader leads by example.  He makes the hard decisions.  He gives orders, but more on the line of going with the people in his/her platoon to accomplish the mission.  At the most, I had 38 guys in my platoon.  A company commander has 160 to 200 people under him/her.  A commander can bark out orders and have the leadership structure beneath him break that down into individual tasks for each squad to accomplish so that the commander gets what he wants.  The commander can supervise, or he can sit behind a desk trusting the people in his command.


If you want those around you to grow in faith, you must experience it yourself in order to lead them.  If you want them to experience the mountain top experience, you must scale the mountain.  If you want to lead them toward being filled with the Holy Spirit, you must be filled first.


A commander commands.  A leader leads.


Jesus lead.  Sure, there is the Law, but we follow the rules, because we love Jesus and He set the example.


But when we are tasked with leading others, we must first have that experience ourselves.  We must lead by example.  And we must be willing to go in that direction.


As for the family, I pray that there will be more reunions.  Maybe next time, I’ll be better at herding cats.  After all, I have had the experience of at least trying.



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