"Okay, well... give me a call if you need me," he said, lifting his backpack by the strap to sling it over his shoulder.
"I will do that- and expect to put in some hours around Spring Break," I replied.
It was eerie. This was the third of these conversations I'd had in about ten minutes, and it was making me sad. Because while I was somewhat relieved that the insanely busy season had come to an end, it also meant saying goodbye.
I didn't have enough work anymore for ten young men (and one young woman)- didn't have hundreds of guests a day or dozens of tours to fill their time.
And that meant that these people I'd come to care about- these ones smelling of two stroke exhaust and gasoline and snow- were leaving to go back and find work somewhere else. Scattering.
In the Bible, two of the instances in which the term "sheep without a shepherd" is used are in relation to battles and wars. Politics and kingdoms. (1 Kings 22:17 and Jeremiah 50:6)
The results of these wars is that they make the people a sheep without a shepherd. The people are scattered, lost, on their own. They don't have the guidance they need or the leadership they're looking for. Their identities are fractured, their communities are void.
They need a shepherd again- someone to gather them and guide them.
The Bible also uses the term "remnant" to describe this group- the scattered. And I don't know about you, but watching the news lately, going online... it makes me feel like the people of faith are scattered. Instead of communities filled with believers, each city has a few. A remnant. The portion that remains.
I had a dream the other night- and I've forgotten all of it except for one image- a dark background, with a light here and a light there... small glimpses of hope amid the darkness.
It's a lonely feeling, to be part of this scattered flock. We often feel put down, discouraged, like "the other." We are told that we're intolerant or hateful. Our leadership is flawed (because our leaders and pastors are human, too). Our communities are broken.
I often feel a bit lost in this whole thing. It's hard to be both loving and full of truth. The tension is there, this balance is tricky.
And too often, I find myself searching for identities in places that aren't fulfilling, that change with the seasons or with my job or with my weight or with my relationships.
Of course, I don't think that any of my rough-and-tumble, nose-ringed, long-haired, bearded snowmobile guides are feeling especially lost and without guidance now that they're not putting in long hours leading packs of first-time snowmobilers. They've moved on to other things by now.
They've started to claim other identities.
The ones who have left? They're no longer snowmobile guides. It's different now. They're bartenders and waiters and construction workers now- with a new boss and a new group of coworkers. I know that this job was really only one small part of their full, rich lives... but even so, they'll always be my guides.
And I'm already looking forward to gathering them back up again soon- to seeing these people who I've known for only about a month but have been praying for since October. We're planning a little party where we can hang out and eat and swap stories. I'm really looking forward to it.
It'll be good to have them all together again.
Of course, being a Christian is more than just one small piece of who I am... following Jesus Christ (even though I do it so imperfectly) defines my identity in everything. And it also means that I crave, even more deeply, a community with "my" people.
I look forward to the times when I get to be gathered with other believers- in Sunday morning church services, Bible studies, and, ultimately, heaven itself.
I know that God cares about each of us infinitely more than I could ever care about my guides, and He longs to have us all together and celebrating with Him.
No longer will politics and kingdoms stand in the way- no longer will the decision of a king stand in the way of our coming together. We'll be all together, one family at the table.
This scattered flock of us, weary of being lost and leaderless, will finally be reunited with the one Shepherd who brings us all together and gives us purpose and identity.
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