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What does the term “grey sheep” mean? And where did it come from? And what does it have to do with anything? These may be a few of the questions…

You may wonder if it is associated with the term “black sheep.” And who can say black sheep and not think of Chris Farley? (Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with Chris Farley… with the exception I can be sure we can more than likely be friends if you have ever laughed at any of Farley’s antics.)

Black sheep is an idiom or expression used to describe an odd, eccentric, or unusual member of a group or family. They are usually considered the outcast, different from the others in small and large ways.

Grey sheep is a term I came up with to describe myself among my “family of faith.” Growing up in the south, there were many issues (religious and political) considered to have black and white answers- nothing in between, no maybes, no compromises, no grey areas. The color grey symbolizes, for me, the truth I have discovered in regard to my faith. Spiritual truths should not be defined or confined to black and white rules, guidelines, answers, and theology. Likewise, scripture [for me] should not be interpreted as a stagnant text with black and white answers.

The image of sheep are used throughout the Christian faith with Jesus seen as the shepherd and his followers as his flock (his sheep). I have always hated conformity, so much so, this imagery of a mindless herd wandering around wherever they’re pushed irritates me. I like to think of myself (if this is the scene I’m in) as the one wandering (but not lost) sheep… doing her own thing, thinking with her own brain, not participating in herd mentality.

So there you have it… I’m the grey sheep of my spiritual community. I don’t conform. I question all the things and encourage my kids to do the same. I live in the grey area… where very few questions have answers and no question is unwelcome. And I’m okay with it. I’m just a grey sheep, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one wandering around out here.

Not all those who wander are lost
— Gandalf the Grey, Excerpt from poem in The Lord of the Rings