Last month I went to my first sheep dog trials. It was a lovely event organised by a friend who was raising money for charity and hosting local trials which fed into larger national competitions.

We had a lovely day out and it was only on my way home reflecting on the event that I realised there’s a lot we can learn from sheep. No wonder Jesus used them in his parables a lot.

At first, we had no idea what going on – sheep seemed to be running all over the place and there certainly didn’t seem to be any structure or order from where we were standing.

That was first interesting thing.  Everything changed when we changed our viewpoint. Once we moved to the centre point (where the judges were) the whole course made sense. Moreover, it was in the centre that we found the course description and we were then able to follow what it was that the sheep and sheep dogs were meant to be doing.

We can draw an analogy with dating here. Everything depends on our viewpoint – and we don’t know our viewpoint is wrong if we’re standing in the wrong place. It’s only when we change our viewpoint do we discover if where we are now is better than where we were before. Let me be more explicit.

Suppose your view is that Mr or Miss Perfect will jump off the page at you when you first see their profile. In my opinion this is a wrong viewpoint and you are unlikely to get many results holding this view. But you won’t know that till you change your viewpoint. Once it’s changed such that you start contacting perhaps unlikely looking matches for you, do other things come into view. Things that didn’t make sense before suddenly make sense now.  Just like what happened to us when we moved from the bottom of the sheep dog field to the middle. Unfortunately, though you can’t learn this by reading about it – you actually have to move yourself – or rather change for the effect to take place.

Some of the shepherds made the moving of the sheep around the course look so easy. And then came the ones that couldn’t do it very well at all – the sheep were running all over the place and certainly were not going where they were meant to be going. Suddenly we realised that herding sheep using a sheep dog was a highly skilled role – one that had probably taken months if not years to obtain.

It’s the same with dating and here’s my second analogy.

If others seem to be dating more easily than you, perhaps it might just be because of the skills they are using. Perhaps they are better at writing that initial communication, or better at conversation, or better at drawing the other person out. There are so many skills involved when you are starting out and they aren’t inherent for most of us.

Skills take time to learn and need to be practised. That was certainly clear watching the dogs that day, and it’s true in dating too.

Finally the whole day made me think of how God treats us. We can easily go our own way – particularly if we aren’t listening out for Jesus’s voice instructing us in the way to go. His voice comes to us through our Bible reading. If we are far from it, we’ll be like the sheep who aren’t guided and who run amok going wherever they feel like.

Ultimately a shepherd herds his sheep to look after them and to keep them safe. When we think of God in this way, it should be a real encouragement to us that that is what he wants for us.

Listen to his voice and be encouraged at how much he loves and cares for you.