That’s how many times Yul Brynner put on his gold braided royal Thai costume and strode onto the Broadway stage for his part in the musical The King and I.

Every line, every movement, every facial expression were permanently etched in his memory, just waiting for his cues.

4625 repetitions – remarkable! And from what I’m told, his last performance was every bit as mesmerizing as his first.

How does anyone get to that point, of being able to replicate perfectly every nuance, every tonal inflection, every raised eyebrow?

In a word – practice. Practice produces proficiency.

But when it comes to caring for God’s global workers, proficiency should never devolve into performance. It is injurious to the sheep when the shepherd simply acts on autopilot.

Yes, practice is important. Years of caring for the sheep will yield invaluable insights. Repeated exposure to their plight can result in ever-deepening compassion.

But repetition also has the potential to develop callousness, presumption, pride – even boredom. Unless we humbly submit ourselves to the working of the Great Shepherd in us, we will not have much to offer those sheep he has entrusted to our care.

They will not benefit from our performance, however polished it may be.