Just A Sheep
Two weeks ago, my breakfast area, and eventually the rest of my downstairs, became a sheep’s pen. Literally. My daughters are apart of a 4H program at a local farm, at which they raise dairy sheep and goats. As a 4H project, “the horse lady” as she is affectionately called, allows the children to foster baby lambs during lambing season with the purpose of training the lambs to eat from what is called a lamb bar. It’s a bucket filled with formula with nipples stuck in the sides. Straws from the nipples stick down into the milk inside. So, to take the lambs from bottle fed babies to drinking from the straw is the goal of the project.
Last year, when this time came, I wouldn’t even consider the project. I was afraid I would hurt them somehow. But for some odd reason, this year I was compelled to do this project with my girls. So, two precious little lambs came to live with us for a week in our home.
We cuddled, fed with bottles, and even put diapers on the babies. They soon began to figure out how to leap over the barriers I had created and chase each other through our living room, school room, dining room, and kitchen. Lambs are not potty trainable, so my girls followed them around cleaning up their messes.
After the first day, I noticed one the lambs was breathing hard. We took it’s temperature to find it was 104. Yes, you can check their temperature, but not orally. In the sheep world that means the lamb probably has pneumonia. A daily trip to the farm for the week ensued for shots and check ups.
On Sunday of that week, I stayed home from church to watch over our temporary treasures. “The golden twins” the farmer had called them. “her favorites” she had said. Nervously, I had consented to care for these two, and I wasn’t about to leave them now.
After feeding them their bottle, they jumped down to explore the paper magazines under the coffee table. The boy named Noah tired of it first and ran to leap back unto the sofa onto my lap. His back legs dangled, as I lifted him on up to cuddle next to me. His sister, Nola, decided it was her turn as well, but she was not as nimble as her brother. She managed to get her front two legs on the sofa, and with pleading eyes, made her bleating cry. Of course, she too ended on the sofa, on the other side of me nestled beneath my arm.
As I sat there, Papa began to talk to me. I had read some about sheep in the past. In fact, the Ps. 23 story is one I’ve had memorized since age three. I love the idea of Jesus as my shepherd. So, I immediately thought He was going to talk about me being His sheep.
As He spoke to me, He tenderly said, “You now are a shepherd like me. You’ve done a great job of caring for my lambs.” I began to tear up, because so many times I’ve felt like a horrible mother, much less shepherd. It had been easier to see myself as the dumb sheep.
He continued, “You would lay down your life for the lambs. That is a good shepherd.” My tears fell on the lambs’ wool. “They know a good shepherd.” he continued. “They trust you. That’s why they want to be with you.” I looked down as both lambs had fallen asleep at my side breathing peacefully.
A week later, the lambs had gone to their proper home. I found myself alone, feeling sick. Anxiety about what was wrong with me had almost been debilitating. Exhausted for several days and feeling like strength had been drained from my body, I lay still on our sofa. I turned on a daily sermon by Joseph Prince. In the first few words, he said, “ If we understood Jesus as our good shepherd most sickness would be gone.” My ears perked up. He continued to say if we understood Him as our shepherd we would never have to worry about another thing, we would be at complete peace all the time, and we’d know that He’s got us covered behind and before.
I had been taught from a very early age to obey those in authority over me, but in my world, it was obey or suffer greatly the consequences. The fear of the Lord meant that I must stay completely submitted to authority, even if that authority were evil, or God would zap me. God was just waiting for me to step out from under the umbrella, and when I did I was going to get pelted. The enemy, the devil, would be allowed to destroy my life. In fact, growing up in a twisted religious environment, if I disobeyed those in authority over me, I was made to believe I would be completely turned over to Satan, and he would destroy me. I had no concept of a loving father or of right correction. I’ve stayed in church all my life many times more because I was afraid of not being under the covering of a church or pastor. But it was all fear based, not love based.
Recently, I have to wrestle a lot with those fears all over again. As much as Papa has shown me how much He really loves me, these fears have been overwhelming at times in the past few weeks. But Papa doesn’t give up on His children ever.
As I lay silent and listened to this message, again Papa began to whisper in my ear, “Would a good shepherd take His little lamb and feed it to the ravenous wolves? Or would He beat the crap out of any predator who tried to come after His sheep? Sheep are prone to missteps, make messes where they shouldn’t, sometimes wander, and they aren’t too smart preferring poisonous weeds to green grass and muddied waters to clear streams. Still would you have allowed the ravenous wolves to devour your lambs? ”
“No, Lord! I’d do anything to protect them.” I replied.
His quiet answer back, “So, would I. I’m a good shepherd, dear one. I may discipline my lambs in love, but I don’t destroy them. And my sheep know I can be trusted, so they want to be close to me. Just like the lambs you cared for wanted to be close to you. They couldn’t do a thing to take care of themselves. Left alone, they’d have never survived. That’s why they need the care of a shepherd. I cover my lambs. I am their protection. I am everything to them. I am their only way to survive and thrive. Don’t be afraid, little lamb. I’ll always take extra good care of you.”
When I still have felt anxieties rise up within me, I’ve been pondering His words. I have reminded myself that I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to be perfect. I will misstep from time to time. I may poop where I’m not supposed to. Well, hopefully not, but I certainly make messes from time to time. But even when I do, He is lovingly caring for every detail of my life. I can’t make it one day with out His watchful care. All I really need to do is stay close to Him and follow His lead. He won’t ever turn me over to the wolves. I’m just a sheep in the care of a good shepherd. He is my covering. He is my protection. I trust in Him.