The other day, as I walked to Black Forest Academy, I noticed that the sheep were down the hill and along the fence.
I have often seen these sheep wandering the nearby hills… and the city-girl in me delights in quaintness of life now lived.
We aren’t so disillusioned with life through the fast-paced technology and feed-me-now imagery that we can’t also enjoy a few bleating and wandering sheep.
It made me think back to all the stories my dad has told me about his own life as a shepherd.
Yes, in addition to all of his other amazing professions and attributes… he is a shepherd.
And he’s taught me quite a bit about sheep. And what it takes to care for them.
So I thought about this post and debated telling this story… then today I arrived at my Moms in Prayer group. Sat down. Opened the Word. The leader said, “Today we will be celebrating God as our Shepherd.”
Isn’t He so ironic?
Confirmed that today I’d be writing about my shepherd father.
Who breathes every waking moment the air of sheep.
Which, if you’ve passed by any, isn’t always that pleasant.
He’s spent endless waking hours looking over their safety, their provision, their comforts.
When one wanders away… he secures the others and goes after the lost one. Even one will send him on a search.
Because it matters to him.
They all do.
Because he wants to eat them? Use their wool? Drink their milk? Make cheese?
Because sheep are kinda… well… dumb. And without a guide, the scatter and fall off of cliffs or get eaten by wolves. They have no survivals skills of their own.
And my dad is compassionate.
To see such a lost and hopeless creature and it’s depravity without a leader… has brought him alongside them. No matter the color of their wool, their gender, or how they can provide for him.
Sometimes, he’s told me, a sheep that continues to wander requires a little extra attention. And he (along with other shepherds) will gently break the leg of a sheep in order to keep it close for awhile. So it gets to know him, trust him, and love him. And ceases its wandering ways.
He’s also found that sheep do not like to be alone. So he keeps an entire flock… builds for them a community, if you will. Because they like it that way. They are not lone creatures.
He uses oil to heal them and protect them. After carefully inspecting each sheep, my dad applies oil to any bruise or scratch. He knows the insects that can literally pester one of his sheep to death… and rubs its snout, head, and horns with oil as a bug repellant. Finally, he uses oil to slicken snake holes in order to prevent the traction of snakes hoping to dart out and bite a sheep.
Ah yes, he must be ever attentive to their surroundings… (hills or flat, cliffs nearby? water? predators?)
To their provision… (has the cold winter left them without food? Are there thorns among their food? Other dangers? Places for rest ?)
To their emotional and physical needs… (is there a pregnant sheep or one with young lambs to care for? loneliness? illness?)
How like his sheep am I!
Offering little and needing much! My eyes see the grass in front of me, the sheep next to me… he sees the whole of the hills and the predators that are housed within. Sometimes moving me to a new pasture when I think the one I am in is just fine. Sometimes I follow willingly, sometime I need a nudge of his staff… and other times I need a broken leg.
If I am to be a sheep…. how grateful I am that he is my shepherd.
That he is my dad and I am his daughter.
That I am not his only daughter or child… that he can be your shepherd too…
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; – for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!