I love livestock. I know that’s not something you hear from people every day, but I do. I spent around seven years in my local 4H group (one that I’m a leader for now), and all seven of those years, I raised lambs for the fair. Livestock and 4H is one of the most important things in my life, and it has taught me a number of things. Some of the things it taught me were things like responsibility, animal handling skills, money management, people skills, communication skills, showmanship, etc. But the single biggest lesson I learned raising sheep was this: when God tells us we are His sheep that is most certainly NOT a compliment.
Sheep are unbelievable stupid. I know some of you may laugh at that but I’m not kidding. Astoundingly, unimaginably stupid, and not just in an “it’s an animal, it doesn’t understand human logic” sort of way. It’s in a “this animal seriously would get itself killed if it weren’t for human intervention” sort of way.
Examples: They really can get stuck on their backs. It’s how we shaved them, gave injections when needed, and trimmed hooves if needed. Maybe they’re not “stuck” per se, from what I’ve experienced, but they really do stop moving. Also, they are incomparably skittish. I spent months caring for my lambs, and still there were days that they decided they were simply terrified of me. Another incident, my lambs once broke out of their pen (to be fair, we think coyotes scared them), ran to the road and got hit by a car. At 3 am (I really wish I was kidding). This is just the kind of thing that sheep do. They flip out. They get hurt. They’re completely and totally moronic. Now-a-days, we have barns and fences to keep them safe while we’re away, but there’s no wonder that in Biblical times, people dedicated their lives to nothing but preventing their flocks of sheep from running off a mountain cliff. The patience required by a full-time shepherd I’m pretty sure is unmatched.
That’s us. If we were left alone, we’d all follow-the-leaders right off the edge of the cliff of sin. One person does it, so we follow, because we’re scared to be alone. We even get stuck in our sin, we stop fighting it, even though it might kill us. We flee from our shepherd, the one who does nothing but save us and take care of us. Christ loves us, heals our pain, and even feeds us with nothing but the best, and we, like sheep, freak out and take off running in the other direction. Thankfully, Christ is a better shepherd than I was. Human shepherds often want to throw their hands in the air saying “Fine! Go do your own thing! See how long you last…” But our Great Shepherd patiently walks after us when we stray, approaches us with loving arms, and leads us gently back to the safety of His care, even though he knows we will likely wander or run off again. His patience is unmatched, perfect, and pure. And not only is his patience perfect, but he died for us. He died for the ones who are stubborn, unruly and often run from him.
That is truly unbelievable. It should leave us in awe of Christ and his love for us. No matter how hard we kick against him, how often we run, or what foolish messes we get ourselves into, Christ never says “I’ve had it with you! I’m done!” Instead he softly finds us, lifts us up and returns us to his flock. He is never bitter, never agitated, never at the end of his rope.