Even as under-shepherds, we are still first and foremost sheep ourselves. We are every bit as much in need of the Shepherd as those we endeavor to serve.
The Great Shepherd has a dual purpose in inviting us to co-labor with him. For one thing, the work he does in those we serve gains the added flavor of our personality. He brings people across our path specifically for the unique interaction of two persons. We are a key ingredient in his recipe for health and healing in each others lives.
The other purpose is our own formation. We are disciples in the process of becoming like our master. The fact that he allows us to be involved in the life of one of his sheep is no proof of our having “arrived.” We are interns under supervision. There is no room for prideful independence.
Being yoked to the Great Shepherd as we shepherd others has a profound transformational effect on us. As he works through us, and we work with him, we are changed more and more into his likeness.
So the Shepherd functions like a master craftsman, a potter creating vessels of honor that he may then fill and pour out onto his sheep.