Let’s refresh our view of biblical shepherd manhood.
Pray for guidance; trust God to give it. I note in passing that some of this inevitably applies to women, but the more precise details of biblical femininity needs to come from a woman. Everyone’s encounter with the Holy Spirit is different, but women experience a whole range of things men grasp only poorly (and vice versa). Meanwhile, if you use the term “manhood” in the search function on this blog, you’ll find plenty of older reference material. By the same token, “shepherd” will produce another big batch of references.
This is Radix Fidem; this is all based on our covenant of faith. It assumes the heart-led way, a heart filled with conviction in service to Christ. The underlying image will always be a feudal covenant; He is our Lord and we are His adopted family household. Jesus was an ancient Hebrew Messiah, and we have to understand Him on those terms. It’s not the same as Judaism; Jesus wasn’t exactly Jewish in that sense, but He was distinctly Israeli based on the Covenant of Moses. It’s all about the Covenant. Our covenant subsumes all previous covenants because it arises from the Son of God.
Men, your whole identity rests on your mission and calling. You need not worry about constructing any other identity outside of this. You may be a lot of things to a lot of people, but in the core of your soul, you are the man whom God has called into His service. The sense of calling is who you are. If you really are lost on this, take any number of courses that help you think through such things. I can recommend Robert Lewis’s Men’s Fraternity curriculum, as long as you understand that it is Western oriented. It’s good psychology, but the values are tilted just a little away from our Christian Mysticism. Still, it’s a decent place to start if you simply have no clue how to begin searching for your sense of diving calling. Lewis’s stuff is one of the least problematic for us to handle.
At some point you begin to understand the need to seize the domain God has granted to you. It is uniquely yours and it waits for you. There’s no telling what kind of demonic squatters you’ll find as you begin to occupy your domain. But spiritual warfare is simply seizing Biblical Law and rendering your domain — your self — over to divine use. You’ll be bruised and wounded in the process, but God heals and restores those who seek to be faithful. Never, ever get comfortable with your progress; yet, also recognize resting points He grants along the way. Be patient and persistent; the process begins now and ends when you die.
We talk of restoring God’s design to your life. This is reality as He Created it. There are some things you need to do if you aren’t doing them already. Reconnect with Creation as a living being; Creation is your ally and friend, and is eager to serve your stewardship if you’ll just assert God’s divine moral character over your personal domain. Satan cannot simply take control of nature; he has only so much control over you and I as we grant him. That grant arises from how often we agree with his lies. Be the man and fight the enemy within your soul; drive him out. Make him uncomfortable with your commitment.
This includes taking dominion over your own flesh. It will resist in varying ways, so there’s no neat handy checklist. Part of this requires that you challenge your flesh in terms of fitness. I’m not going to tell you that you need power building or that you should emphasize aerobic fitness. Only you can know what God designed you for, but you should find something each day that challenges your fitness level. It may take awhile to find your groove. The point is to show yourself and others that you are master of your own flesh as God intended; it serves you, not the other way around.
While you are developing fitness, learn how to fight. Nobody says you have to be pugnacious, just know something about defending yourself. Develop as much accurate tactical awareness as you can handle. I can’t honestly recommend military service, but it’s not the worst thing you can do, either. If you have the resources, there are private training programs. However, include with it survival training. Gain the confidence to carry on your mission without creature comforts. Know inside yourself that you can probably handle almost anything; do it in faith.
The idea is to develop your charisma, whatever it is that God has granted. You can hardly shepherd if the sheep don’t know you are in charge. Being in charge is a broad complex of factors that come together to signal self-confidence and mastery in your own domain. I’m afraid there are no concrete models for you to follow unless you can absorb the good lessons from fallen humans in the Bible. There are certainly no heroes in movies or TV that correspond to what we teach here. But though our society and culture rejects the biblical model, everyone responds to it when they encounter it.
The one who needs it most is your spouse, future or present. You are her shepherd first and foremost. She needs to sense that you are strong enough and smart enough to protect her. That means being strong enough to say “no” when she needs that (you learn a lot by knowing when to say “no” to yourself). You have to understand just what she responds to in expressing your affection for her. Robert Lewis (mentioned above) suggests you give some thought to these five categories of things most women respond to:
1. Words — strong verbal affirmations of her importance and value to you
2. Acts — things you do that speak to her heart, signaling her value
3. Touch — tender physical touch and sex
4. Gifts — tokens of your love for her (need not be expensive, just appropriate)
5. Time — sometimes she just needs to be the center of your attention for awhile (pampering)
Chances are if you ask her, she’ll tell you which thing really triggers her sense of fulfillment, knowing that she is loved and treasured. In our covenant domain, people are the treasure beyond all other things God might place in our hands.
There’s more to come on this.