Confession: I used to be offended whenever God compared us to sheep in the Bible. Everybody knows sheep are DUMB. When I grew up in San Antonio, I used to go to the rodeo every year – mostly for the concerts. (I am a CITY GIRL. I don’t really get into the whole cowboy thing – and animals make me sneeze.)
One time in high school, I was with my girlfriends for a concert. We were there early and got to watch some of the actual rodeo events – like when the children came out and showed their sheep. I don’t remember much about what the sheep could do, but I’ll never forget this one STUPID sheep. Maybe he got excited from all the noise of the crowd in the arena or maybe he just plain thought he knew his way out of there, but he took off running toward the corral… and instead of going out the exit, he rammed right into the gate next to it, stupidly trying to fit through the horizontal gap. All we could see was the body of this animal dancing around wildly, stubbornly trying to push himself through.
My friends and I laughed so hard as he kicked his back legs out and “bahhhed” like crazy. He really thought that if he pushed hard enough, he would fit. It was NEVER going to happen. I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t he just pull his head out instead of insisting he go forward?!” He looked so ridiculous. And once the rest of the crowd started noticing this sheep FREAKING OUT, the hilarity ensued. Everybody was laughing at the poor animal.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the whole embarrassing scene. And I still giggle about it. And then I think to myself… THAT creature is what God calls us in the Bible? Why sheep? Why not something cooler like lions? Nobody thinks a lion is dumb. Why are we called sheep?
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” -Isaiah 53:6
A few years ago at Christmas, we had a “sheep” theme in my family. My grandmother had each of us read different verses from the Bible about how we were like sheep – prone to wander, easily distracted, limited in scope and understanding. We dialogued as a family about how sheep needed a shepherd to direct them because they weren’t all that great at finding their way around. (Guess who was remembering that one rodeo with that one stupid sheep at that point?) My grandmother gave all of us a stuffed sheep to remind us of our need for a Shepherd.
My church has been doing Stressbusters: 40 Days with the Shepherd, and I haven’t been reading the book with them because I teach middle school bible study and we study books of the Bible. But as Pastor Larry preached today out of Psalm 23, I couldn’t help but think about that poor sheep again and all the ways that I was kind of like him.
The most profound thing about that memory was not the hilarious stupidity of the sheep. No, I remembered how the adults standing nearby tried to call the sheep away from the gate, but he wouldn’t come. I watched some of them try to pull the sheep out, but the little guy just became more agitated and flustered. He was good and stuck.
But then the little boy who was his trainer – his SHEPHERD – ran over to the gate and put his hand on the sheep. He said something to him – something only the sheep could hear – and somehow that sheep calmed down. The boy got him “unstuck” and carefully directed through the right gate. The boy was the only one who was able to get that sheep out of his bad situation… because the sheep KNEW the boy’s voice. The sheep responded because he was trained to recognize and obey only that little boy’s voice.
I determined in my heart that I wanted to be like that sheep – stupid, yes. But obedient and totally in tune with my Shepherd’s voice. Many times in my life I have been unsure where I was supposed to go… what I was supposed to do. Many times I was stuck in the back of the herd and couldn’t see what was ahead. Sometimes it was Sheila Sheep’s fluffy butt blocking my view or Shawn Sheep running his mouth and telling me what he thought the Shepherd was doing. Sometimes a whole crew of sheep around me started heading the wrong direction. But I have learned to be the sheep who waits for the Shepherd…
Sometimes it’s just a whisper.
“Krissi, I’m right here. Follow the sound of my voice.”
You see, I KNOW that voice. It belongs to HIM… the One who created me. The One who loves me. The One who died for me. He will never lead me off a cliff or feed me to the wolves who stand back and wait for the moment I step out of the herd. No, they cannot devour me because my Shepherd guards, protects. He sees the path ahead. He might not show me the final destination… because He wants to enjoy the journey with me. He wants me to rest in “green pastures” and soak up the “quiet waters”… “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” He and I will go through valleys – dark ones where death surrounds us – but He won’t lose me in there. I will “fear no evil” when I am with Him. Because everything about Him – like His rod and His staff, which are sometimes all I can see when His face is turned – gives me great comfort. He anoints me and He blesses me with an “overflowing cup.”
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23
Sometimes it is GOOD to just be a stupid sheep.