Heather, Meet Sheep: Part I

She stood in the back, penned in on all sides, standing in the tall grass, watching as we passed, fluffy and off-white, round and full, appearing like a tangled mess of cotton balls with black sticks for legs.

The other animals interested my daughters more.  They hovered around the bunny hutch, chasing the rabbits from side to side, squealing over so much cuteness.

We peered into the dark of the pigs’ hut, spotting amidst the piles of hay tiny piglet ears and little piglet eyes that peeked out and then dodged back down for more napping.

The baby goat, calmer than most goats we’ve met, lingered at the fence edge so we could pet him and coo over his sweet friendliness and gentle ways.

At the pumpkin patch that day, we hunted for clues scattered throughout the farm and then unscrambled the letters to decode the hidden message—all for a prize, of course.

The clue took only a second to find, the marveling over the other farm animals took a bit longer, and then off the girls ran to hop onto the wagon for a hayride out to the fields.

But me, I could linger there for a while because amidst hay and signs teaching the kids that male turkeys are called “Tom” and a hen lays one egg a day, was another sign.

That sheep.  The one in the back.  The one that just stood watching us run around like excited suburbanites out in the country for an outing….

That sheep was named Heather.015

Like me.

I snap a picture of the sign, hoping I’ll remember the truth found here at the pumpkin patch.

Heather, the sheep, that’s who I am: the one in need of a Shepherd, the one who is fearful, the one who needs tending and continual leading, the one who can’t find her way to safe pastures or make decisions on her own.

Heather, the sheep who thinks she’s a farm laborer at times, meant to haul burdensome loads on her back, forgetting that sheep aren’t burden-bearing animals.

God didn’t make them to carry the weight or the responsibility, not like the oxen, the horses, the donkeys even.  We’re not meant for hauling around concerns, cares, or worries.

Sometimes we can’t even stand on our own feet all in our own strength.  Our Shepherd doesn’t load our shoulders down with packs and plows; sometimes He hoists us up onto His own strong shoulders and carries us instead.  He bears the burden when we cannot.

In the book, Knowing God by Name: A Girlfriends in God Faith Adventure, I read:

“Sheep don’t come across as stressed-out creatures… Sheep don’t worry about where their next meal is coming from, if they will have a place to sleep each night, when the next enemy or thief will attack, or even what the next day holds.  When sheep are sick or in need, they simply turn to their shepherd, instinctively knowing he or she will take care of and comfort them (p. 125).

They simply turn to the Shepherd, just one swift movement from worry to trust, handing it over to the one who cares for them, never doubting, not for one brief stressful moment, that the Shepherd loves them, cares for them, knows best, and will provide.

We know our Shepherd.

Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NASB).

He did this for us, so great a sacrifice for such small creatures, such fearful ones, not the strong or the hardy, but the weak and fearful who are so easily led astray and scattered at the slightest sign of danger.

I read this, too, in Knowing God by Name:

“The needs of sheep, compared to the needs of other animals, are greater because of their instinct to be afraid, and when faced with fearful situations, to run.  Sheep can never be left alone.  They often stray, requiring the shepherd to find and rescue them” (p. 123).

And He does this, too: traipse over wilderness to lead us back, pull us all cowering out of the crevices and corners where we’ve tried to hide away in our terror.  He gives us constant knowinggodbynameattention, eternal love, continual faithfulness.

Yes, He lays down His life for us.  That’s the sacrifice He gave once for all.

But He doesn’t abandon us even now, rescuing us from predators, battling off the enemies that threaten to devour, bringing us back from the places of foolishness we’ve wandered to.

Why should I fear?

Why tug burdens onto shoulders not meant to bear them?

Why plot my own course rather than trust His lead?

Why tremble at enemies when my Shepherd will fight for me?

I’m a sheep, so simple, so weak, so well-cared for.

That’s what a sign on a post at the pumpkin patch reminds me.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King