Every year about this time, I see him on my way to work. He's a little more bent, like the pipe in his teeth. He walks his companion--a border collie--who strains at the leash. Every quick movement catches her eye. And every fiber of her being wants to herd it, whether it's a squirrel, a leaf or a dump truck.
When I first saw this pair a couple years ago, he was leaning back and holding the leash with both hands. And with each passing car, she would circle him like a furry satellite. I would imagine the walk for him was draining by the time he got home. She needed to be off that leash in a couple acres of sweet grass with a few sheep to be truly happy.
This year he is more relaxed and she listens to his direction. When a person is talking to him, she lays flat on the ground and is still. When he is ready, she is up and moving.
I have been attending a group called Celebrate Recovery (CR) the past couple months. For years I have tried to bring others who I thought needed it. They would come a couple of times, then other things would pull them away. I realized, how can I ask someone to commit to something I have never walked through?
Most people think CR is for "others". The ones with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Those addictions are actually just numbing the deeper issues and CR deals with it all--layer by layer by layer. I realized you don't have to have a physical addiction to attend.
Like the collie scene I witness when the cool season hits, my "people addiction" strains at the leash. I want to herd everyone to where I think they need to be. I could be ready to "help" when the phone rang or advice was asked for. Some days found me nipping at my family's heels, or obsessing about a wayward child in the middle of the night.
When I first started attending CR I enjoyed the singing and the lesson for the night. It was afterwards when we broke up into small groups that brought out that herding instinct. The rules for small group say that you have time to speak but when someone else is speaking, you must remain quiet. You cannot offer advice, help or tell them how you dealt with an issue. The first few meetings I had to literally sit on my hands as I listened to others pour out their sorrows and frustrations.
Later I found out you can speak to someone during the coffee fellowship afterwards. But I don't linger too long, because for now I find that a huge temptation to herd again.
God is teaching me to just listen and let Him draw them out. I needed discipline, to know when the right time was to fetch someone back into the fold. I have so much more to learn. And I have so many more people to love--not herd. I have stopped sitting on my hands. I listen while I doodle and I bring tissues. I don't strain at the leash so much anymore. Even when that wayward child calls.
The next phase of CR for me will come in January when we begin a Step Study. This is where I will start peeling off the layers of my people addiction and get at the root of it all. I am apprehensive at what I will find. But my Good Shepherd knows what's best for this woman who has been off the leash way too long.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV)