Being Content as the Shepherd or the Sheep
There is nothing about my job that I could describe as boring. Every day is different from the last. My coworkers and I work constantly with the challenges each day brings. Very rarely do our schedules remain consistent, and even then they ebb and flow. While I could easily dedicate a whole blog post to the beautiful aspects of Tico Time, today I want to express to you what I learned from my three mere hours of shepherding. That’s right, staff, herd dog, and all.
Emily, Tomas and I woke up at Casa Shalom prepared to spend most of our day working and covered in chicken sewage. Tomas and our dear friend Teresa are working on constructing a home for the chickens in which they are elevated off the ground. This invention makes cleaning-time, feeding-time and overall-time spent working with the chickens, faster, cleaner and more do able. Anyways, during that time Tomas offered one of our lucky souls a break from the atmosphere of chicken odor in exchange for a few hours of shepherding, so the sheep could spend some time grazing in the field. There was a part of my soul that felt obligated to suffer alongside my friends (But then I thought...mhmmm better not). It did not take me more than 3 seconds before I literally raised my hand and volunteered as tribute. I packed a bag with a water bottle, some snacks (obviously), a book (Treasure Island is killer folks, y'all have got to read it), and my phone for some music. I expected to sit on a tree stump, clock in a few hours of reading, praying, learning some songs in Spanish and taking in the incredible views of San Rafael de Vara Blanca.
GOOD JOKE ANGELA
In what world did I expect this to be fun? Why would I ever think that chasing around 17 Bob-Marley looking sheep would be a dream? And believe me I was fairly equipped. I had music to keep me in a positive mood, I had killer Garage Sale Hiking boots from REI. I was gifted Rosita, the family mutt-pup, as a helping hand and a staff (so actually a tree branch) to help me in my excursion. I was “equipped”, eager, and ready to spend some time away from the smell of chickens and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
But ho’ho’, Dear Readers the fun is about to begin. I opened up the gate to let the 17 sheep out and away they went. Up the mountain searching for food where it surely was plentiful (like everywhere else in the field). Watching them was anything but easy, it fact it was straight comical. I found myself tripping, getting caught on barbed wired fences, while I was chasing them through the blackberry patches. In fact, I spent more time untangling the twine-leash I was using for Rosita then I did keeping an eye on the sheep. My previous “easy-breezy” ideals of shepherding went from a mini-sabbath retreat to a comically, slightly dangerous escapade where I realized the subjects I was working with were the farthest thing from brilliant.
However while stressful, my time spent acting like a rodeo-clown was not in vain. I kept finding myself reflecting on how much I resonate with these 17 ignorant animals...I mean beautiful, perfectly-sculpted creations of the Lord Almighty. In watching them scramble, trip, wide-eyed and constantly frightened I saw a bit of myself and my Christian brothers and sisters within them. Chasing after these fellow creations felt much like holding up a mirror to my own face. Now I am much less surprised as to why we are constantly referred to as sheep in the Bible, and why our God is known as our steadfast, patient and ever so gracious shepherd.
But honestly though, what these sheep indirectly taught me is that I am constantly struggling with contentment, when I have no right to be otherwise.
For 3 hours I watched these incredibly frustrating creatures run up and down hills (steep disastrous hills no less) looking for food. Biting then running, biting then running, biting then running, over and over again in sheep-like fashion. They spent more time moving around looking for food then eating the food that was right in front of them. They wasted their time, hurt themselves along the way, and ran the incredible risk of getting separated from the ones they hold dear in search of more dang grass. IT'S ALL GRASS, SHEEP!!!! (Really I am talking to you, humanity). Seriously, what was better about that grass down the hill then what was right in front of you??? Nothing! Except that you made me run after you for it and you wasted your time going down a hill. You could have stayed right where you were and been completely satisfied and fulfilled. These animals are dumb. But so am I.
About an hour and a half into my failed attempts of keeping the sheep within a very sufficient and lush half mile radius, I began to wish I was working in the rank chicken cages with my companeros. While yes, they were not breathing or existing in anything relatively close to fresh air they at least were not running around, twisting their ankles every 30 seconds, spending more time chasing after the dog then after the sheep, and not even able to see what happens after Jim steps onto Treasure Island. Oh woe is your life Angela. In true Angela-like fashion, I wasn't content with the decision I made.
However, truly absent of my normal joking manner, I really have struggled in so many grand and insignificant ways with contentment. I am living in one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, living with some of the most patient, welcoming, and kind people I am lucky enough to call my host family, and working with some incredible humble servants of God. And despite all of this, there are a many of frequent days I wish I was back home on my farm in Maryland, with my family, my closest friends, my old job in the restaurant surrounded by the boring sound of a very known English language. Yet, the entire year before I left for Costa Rica I was wishing and hoping for time to fly, so I could leave my consistent and predictable life in search for something new, and challenging. ANGELA GIRL, WHAT DO YOU WANT?
I struggle with contentment because I have frequently and undeniably looked for stability, happiness, and fulfillment in situations, people, and success. I have completely for-goed finding my contentment in the All-Mighty. God has provided and interceded more in my life then I could have ever deserved. Just the mere fact of discovering this opportunity with ADE and having the resources to move down here is a testimony to that in itself. Yet here I am living down in Costa Rica, and I find myself reminiscing on being with my people and my dog (okay, so mostly my dog Willow) back in the States. However, I have been called to this new home, and still I struggle to be content as I see God providing for me time and time again.
I don’t want anyone to think I have this contentment thing down because I definitely don’t. I am just lost, like these sheep. However, I want you to all to know that I am learning, much like trial by fire, and I am doing all I can to remain faithful to our Father. I am lost, finding my way in the dark and hoping for clarity through contentment on the other side. Much like Paul, and the rest of humanity, I am, need to be, and should always be, in a constant state of thankfulness for all situations that arise or are taken away in life, because God still reigns. I am still praying for and seeking out an attitude of contentment-ness that I should probably start practicing now...
Praise God, I had some slammin blackberries along the way, so I can’t complain too much.
Philippians 4:10-12 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me”