This past summer, our family got to visit Colorado National Monument. At one of the visitor centers, a ranger talked about the different animals in the park and showed us a skull of a Bighorn Sheep. He pointed out how the horns curved around the skull, but were broken off at the end. The ranger described how the horns tend to curl around, passing directly into the rams line of sight. So, to keep safe from predators and not let horns get in the way of its vision, the Bighorn sheep will stick the tip of the horn in a crevice of a rock and break it off and then rub it on a sandstone rock to round off the rough edges. This practice is called brooming.
This surprised my wife and I because, honestly, that seems like very intelligent behavior for a sheep!
It made me think about the way horns serve as symbols of power, authority and leadership where we lived in Mozambique, Africa as well as in Scripture (for example, Psalm 18:2 and Jeremiah 48:25).
Maybe these sheep have something to teach us about the ways that horns/authority can obscure a leader’s vision. They remind us that when we let authority go to our heads(!) we become more susceptible to predators. Leaders need to be intentional about not letting their power and influence impede their vision. That’s true for individual leaders and for institutions, as well. We need to be deliberate about making sure that authority and tradition don’t grow so large that we actually do lose sight of what’s around us. For bighorn sheep, without proper brooming, these horns could be dooming them to an early death, blinding them to dangers and threats.
To live out a 2020 vision effectively will require us, as leaders, to take stock of our own authority and influence to make sure it has not obscured our sight. That doesn’t mean that we reject the use of power and influence, instead it means using authority and leadership properly. One of my favorite resources on this topic is Andy Crouch’s book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. May we have the courage to practice brooming, keeping leadership and authority in its proper place.
May we as fellow sheep, join the Chief Shepherd in leading the flock well, awake to the ways that power, influence and authority have the potential for good as well as the ways that they can impede our vision.