As a young boy I had many dreams that exceeded my grasp. One was to own a horse. Not just any horse but a quarter horse. Once that dream entered my mind I bought copies of American Quarter Horse magazine and read them and admired the pictures of strong stallions captured on the pages. I also had dreams of living on a ranch and having all sorts of animals. I am not certain where these dreams initiated, but I suspect it was from my childhood friend who was in 4-H.
Those dreams soon faded as I got a dose of animal husbandry. My friend took me along to the county fair so I might experience the full flavor of caring for animals and tending to their needs. I don’t believe that was his intent, but that was the result! It was dreadful. The smell penetrated every part of my being and my clothes. Watching the other kids care for their animals caused my short life to flash before me and conclude, “This is nothing like I imagined it to be. This is hard work and for what?”
As it turned out one particular evening, my friend was sick and could not show his lamb in the arena. So he asked me to do it. “It is simple,” he said. “Once your are on the trailer,” (nobody had mentioned a trailer prior to this) “just place your hand under his jaw and hold his body between your legs.” That did not sound overly complicated so I agreed to the task.
The time came and about a dozen kids loaded their lambs on the flatbed trailer. As everyone perched themselves on hay bails, I positioned my lamb just as my friend had described. I was shaking all over, but the lamb initially seemed oblivious to it all. As we made our way around the arena, apparently my little guy had enough. He decided he was getting off! Before I knew it, he bolted. Not just toward the front of the trailer or the back, but off the side!
I could hear the kids yell, “hang on to the lamb!” So I, did the only thing I knew to do – I grab his hind legs and hung on for dear life while the lamb dangled over the side of the trailer. He was not a happy camper and began yelping! I don’t know if sheep yelp but it sure sounded like that.
The thing was, no one else could help because they were all hanging on to their lambs. As mine yelped, theirs bawled along with it! It was pure comical chaos. As the trailer made its way out of the arena, I knew my sheep showing days were over. The lamb was not hurt, but my pride sure was.
Here was the problem. That lamb knew that I was not his caregiver. He knew that the knees that held him were not familiar knees. The hand under his jaw was not a familiar hand. More than that, he knew I was nervous and scared so he became nervous and scared.
Sheep are interesting animals – timid, fearful and not at all secure without their shepherd. They seek comfort and assurance from their shepherd. Jesus said he is the “great shepherd.” His sheep know his voice and they follow him (John 10:1ff). Jesus positioned himself as the consummate provider and protector. He knows his sheep and they know him and place complete trust in him. No one will snatch them from his hand.
We are his sheep. He is our shepherd. When we hear his voice we can follow with confidence knowing that he will not lead us into danger and will never leave us unattended. We know the familiarity of his touch, his voice, and his love.
Father, let me continue to rest in the care of the great shepherd. To place my complete trust in his love and ability to provide for me.