From: Good Goats
A few years ago, we presented some of the ideas in this book to a group of elderly retired Roman Catholic nuns. One sister raised her hand and said, “But what about the story of the sheep and the goats? It says right there that the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell.”
Dennis responded by asking the whole group, “How many of you, even once in your life, have done what Jesus asks at the beginning of that passage and fed a hungry person, clothed a naked person, or visited a person in prison?” All the sisters raised their hands. Dennis said, “That’s wonderful! You’re all sheep.” Then Dennis asked, “How many of you, even once in your life, have walked by a hungry person, failed to clothe a naked person, or not visited someone in prison?” Slowly, all the sisters raised their hands. Dennis said, “That’s too bad. You’re all goats.”
The sisters looked worried and perplexed. Then suddenly one very old sister’s hand shot up. She blurted out, “I get it! We’re all good goats!”
That sister did get it. She understood the language about Heaven and hell is symbolic language. Heaven and hell are not specific geographical places. They are symbols of inner realities, of states of being. All of us who have felt alienated, unloved, overwhelmed by shame of helplessly caught in an addiction know what it’s like to be in hell. And all of us who have been welcomed home, who have seen our goodness reflected in the affirming eyes of another or who have been loved into recovery know what it’s like to be in Heaven. We all have wheat and weeds within us, sheep and goats. The kingdom of God is within us, and we’re all good goats.