I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.
I spent the first ten years of my life trying to get close enough to hug one but they’re not big on hugging. Even if I crept up quietly behind one it was as if they had a sixth sense and saw me coming. I now know that sheep have a field of vision of around 300 degrees so they had an in-built heads up on annoying Scottish children.
Interestingly enough they have poor depth perception. For this reason, sheep will avoid shadows or harsh contrasts between light and dark. They will move towards the light. They head into the wind and towards the light. I try to remember that most days.
Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful.
Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs. Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die.
So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heart beat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.
“Off you go now. You. can. do. this. I’m right here.”
The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”
The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice.
It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.
I am so grateful that Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd.
“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them,
and they follow him because they know his voice.”
John 10:3-4 (NLT)
In the most painful place in my life, hospitalized with severe clinical depression, I too learned the most profound lesson, we are loved because we are His – not because we can do tricks like seeing people approaching from behind!
Until the day I see Jesus face to face — I will be a bummer lamb.
It’s no longer the bad news; it’s the best news in the world because it’s not that Jesus loves his bummer lambs more –
it’s just that they actually dare to believe it.