Am I A Sheep?
The Love Money And Fame Cannot Buy
by Eric Elkin
Our Wednesday night adult education group spent the last month reading a book about Fred Rogers, the late creator, and star of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Not being a big fan of Mr. Rogers, I didn’t realize the pointed social justice messages he wove into almost every show. While he presented a passive exterior, he was as determined to work for justice as he was to care for children.
I also didn’t know the level of his wealth. One would not think a star of PBS, even a popular one, as being wealthy. However, Fred Rogers was wealthy. Matter of fact, he never experienced anything but abundance his whole life. While Mr. Rogers proclaimed justice for the poor, food for the hungry and comfort for the grieving, he did so from an elegant mansion in the wealthy Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA.
We concluded our study by watching the documentary about Fred Rogers called, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Again, the movie revealed a side of Mr. Rogers most never saw. The film focused on his impact on children and friends. It did not talk about his work and dedication to prison ministry or his passion for eradicating hunger. Regardless of how you feel about him, Fred Rogers was a person of great wealth and even greater influence.
Near the end of the documentary, his wife shares her last conversation with her husband. Before he slipped into a coma, Fred Rogers asked his wife, “Do you think I am a sheep?” A reference to Revelation where God will come and separate the sheep from the goats. Despite all wealth, success, impact and positive influence on others, Mr. Rogers was not sure he was good enough to be loved.
His question left me wondering, do any of us really feel good enough to be loved?
Jesus tells us in The Sermon on the Plain those who are poor, hungry and grieving are blessed. It's hard for me to imagine a child foraging for food on a pile of garbage as thinking, “Boy, this is the life.” Do they even consider God as anything other than someone who has punished them?
Where is the blessing of overwhelming grief? Even when death comes at a natural time, it remains a cruel separation from those whom we love. I cannot imagine any blessing in the experience when death takes a loved one who is too young to die. Can anyone in the midst of grief find comfort or a source of joy in these words?
Although it has also been my experience, the moment we are most open to being loved is when we are in our most vulnerable state. When the color of our outfit does not even enter our mind. When the concern for how we come off to others is not even a passing thought. That moment when we are most wounded is the very time we will take any source of comfort we can find.
When all hope of living was lost, Fred Rogers asked a question. The question revealed a doubt which plagued him his whole life. A doubt no amount of money or popularity could take away. However, it also provided an opportunity to hear the words he wanted to hear. “Yes, Fred, if ever there was a sheep, it was you.”
When all seems lost, it is not lost at all. In the depth of despair, God’s kingdom is waiting there for you. It is why joy comes both in mourning and when we wake up to its presence.
Click to read Luke 6: 17-26
When have you felt the blessing of God’s presence?
When the presence of God felt like a “woe”?
What would it take for you to feel loved?
How do you show love to others?