As a child, I studied many different images of the Good Shepherd. I saw the official version every Sunday in the stained glass window above the altar at First Congregational Church in Tempe, Arizona. That shepherd was a tall, friendly-looking, 30-something man, fair of skin and eye with long, flowing, goldish-brown locks and soft hands. Dressed in a full-length white robe, he seemed remarkably clean for someone who supposedly spent his time chasing sheep. A little lamb nestled in his big, strong arms, while more sheep rested at his feet.
That image in the window, in its various versions, is probably the most familiar representation of the Good Shepherd, the one who, in the words of Ezekiel, will seek out the lost, bring them back from the darkness and lead them to good pastures. Yet as beautiful and peaceful as that image was, it didn’t jibe with my own experience.