One of our favorite movies is Monsters, Inc. I haven’t seen it in a while, but I’ve heard it when we’ve had it on in the car. A tender moment in the movie is when Boo inadvertently sees Sulley, whom she has come to know as a big, soft kitty, when he ferociously scares like the monster he is. Sobbing, she cowers and clings to Mike Wazowski, suddenly afraid of previously affectionate Sulley.
I was reminded of this scene when I read this:
The Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. —Isaiah 40:10-11 NLT
Unfortunately, a lot of us when we think of a shepherd, recall elementary school kids in a Christmas pageant. Or maybe an image like this:
Here Jesus looks like someone even I could take in a fight. Not a friend I’d feel better about accompanying me through a dark alley. But really, shepherds in the Bible were strong, outdoorsy types. They likely had biceps as big as my thighs. I doubt they applied moisturizer or used mosquito spray. These were manly men who probably didn’t use antiperspirant, sort of how Sulley uses oderant.
Sulley resembles the God I know. God is gentle and compassionate, carrying me close to his heart. But he is also strong and terrifying to those who would try to harm me. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
I see my role as a father similarly. I need to be strong and able to protect, but my gentleness will draw my kids close to me. My daughter Jacque, who knows I’ve been working out, trying to lose weight and put on some muscle, mentioned that she likes my soft stomach, which makes a nice pillow for her. I’ll have to leave a little for her.
I also need to be strong and gentle for Cindy. Sort of like toilet paper. Not too soft, not too harsh. The trick is knowing what she needs, because it changes depending on the circumstances. To love her the way Jesus loves his Church, I need to “gently lead the mother sheep with [our] young.”
Looking at Jesus’ hands, I would see calluses from grueling, manly work. But I would also see scars from the nails he took because of his deep compassion for me. Strong and gentle. You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.