so, this last week or so, i have been thinking a lot about sheep.
i know, it seems random. after all, i did not grow up on a farm. i was never a member of the FFA or the 4H club...in fact i don't even know what the four H's stand for. i never "showed" livestock and won a ribbon. i didn't say i liked sheep. or that i had spent a lot of time around them, even. but, i have been thinking about them quite a bit.
my Bible study homework this last week was all about the Good Shepherd. in John chapter 10, Jesus talks a lot about this subject...sheep, shepherds, gates, gatekeepers, shepherding, Good shepherd, bad shepherds...all of it. we are, obviously the sheep that Jesus speaks of. have you ever heard this reference? surely you have seen those typical oil paintings of Jesus with beautiful white lambs sitting at His feet, calm, obedient, peaceful, sweet little fluffy things...almost adorable enough to want to take home and make pets of them, huh? almost.
ever been around a sheep? well, like i clearly pointed out earlier, i haven't spent a great deal of time around them, but i've spent enough. i've been to the fort worth stock show and rodeo. you don't really have to get much past downwind of the parking lot to get a nice whiff of all the livestock. no, it wouldn't be fair to blame it all on the sheep, of course. but, when you get to their pens, you see they carry a fair weight of the stench. and you also discover they aren't the little white, fluffy peaceful things you see in the flannel board images of children's church. they smell. and they are dirty.
this, friend....is you and me. this is the animal Jesus chose to compare us to. gee, Lord, thanks a bunch. but, true isn't it?? and while i can honestly say that i have been less than "clean and sweet" every day lately thanks to the fact that i can't stand up long enough to shower, and even just taking a simple bath completely and utterly wears me out and hurts my head tremendously...so therefore i have to space it out. now, i don't space my baths out week to week, although it is so awful, i'd sure like to. (hey, just keepin' it real here) but, the literal smell of us isn't really what i'm speaking of, obviously. and the literal dirt isn't what i am refering to either. it is our sin, friend. yours and mine. thankfully, He can make it as white as snow (isaiah 1:18) but for now, you and i are living in this world and we are sinners. we are smelly and dirty.
because i am so visual, another thing that i am reminded of as i sit back and ponder about sheep...is one of my favorite anecdotes that my pastor tells. he, too, has spent time at the stock show and rodeo....actually as a self-proclaimed "good ol' boy" he's actually probably spent a lot more time around sheep and livestock than this city girl. but, let's face it, shall we? sheep are dumb. don't believe me? one of my pastor's favorite shows at the rodeo is this little trained monkey that comes out, riding a sheep-dog and herds sheep. that's right...it is the darndest thing. someone has spent their time training a little spider monkey, dressed him up in cowboy duds, and hooked him up to a sheep dog, who he rides around the rink, herding sheep. now, friend...let me let you in on a little secret.....they perform this show over and over, a few times a day, day after day, for weeks while the rodeo is in town. and you know what?? they use the SAME sheep each show. and each and every time, those dumb sheep come out of the gate and run around like fools as if to say, "holy sheep, look at that, it's a monkey riding a dog, help, help, run for it! what's going on! ruuuunnnn!!!" that's right. over and over. same sheep. same monkey riding a dog. same reaction. friend....we are not the monkey riding the dog. we are not even the trained dog. get this...WE ARE THE DUMB SHEEP!! love it. and again, gee, thanks Lord. :)
if you aren't careful, you could get a bit offended that Jesus would choose to liken us to sheep. smelly, dirty, d - u - m - b sheep. but, at least for me, i don't have to stop and dwell too long on my life and the choices i've made, to think...hmm, maybe He's right. maybe i do sit a little too long in the dirt of this world, the pride, the worry, the gossip, the self-righteousness..maybe i don't smell like i should often enough. (2 cor 2:15 "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.") and maybe i do run around like a fool, doing the same old stupid thing and expecting a different result. gee, maybe i am a sheep.
and this week it hit me.....hmm...maybe i want to be a sheep.
the more i studied about this chapter (and i highly recommend you study it too, there is SO much great stuff in there!) the more i learned about the spirit i should have. did you know that the sheep depend completely on their shepherd. completely. they don't do anything without him. nothing. in fact, sheep that are wild graze with their heads up, always on guard, having to look out for predators. but not sheep with their shepherds. those sheep graze freely with their heads down, knowing they are being looked after. they have full confidence in the fact that they are safe. full confidence, friend.
they also can be led. did you get that? they are a humble creature. they simply follow. you don't hear about the sheep that leads the shepherd. it doesn't happen. they simply follow their Shepherd wherever He leads them, not asking where or why they are headed that way. "c'mon ol' shepherd, that pasture over there looks easier to get to, and the grass is greener, let's just go there, my hooves hurt!" nope. not happenin'. and yes, a sheep may wander sometimes, but that Good Shepherd will do all He can to find it, rescue it, bring it back. (John 18:12-13) ooohh, not sure about you, but i am more than thankful for that truth.
but, how do they know to follow? that's even cooler....the shepherd would come to the pen, full of sheep...some His, some not...and He would make His special call out to them, a whistle maybe, or a certain tone of His voice, and only His, that's right, only His sheep would know to come. they would know because those sheep, though dumb, know their Shepherds voice. (John 10:4-5) how did they know? simple. because they had spent so much time with Him, that's how. John 10 warns us about bad shepherds, which back then, ibelieve was the Pharisees who worked so hard to push their rules and regulations on people. but, nowadays we have a warped culture, religions and people (maybe even your family and friends) all over saying lots of things that are flat out NOT right. "good" people don't get into heaven. you can't "earn" your way in. you can't "buy" your way in. and no, friend, if you are faithful to give, you aren't promised to be "healthy, wealthy and wise"...in fact, you may be faithful and end up "sick, poor and stupid" but that is when you are to praise Him the loudest. it isn't easy, trust me on that one.... but be careful...don't be led away by bad shepherds...even if they share your same last name.
and that Good shepherd had spent the night, yes, even the darkest of nights, sleeping along that gate, protecting the flock, ensuring nothing got to them, that didn't come through Him first. do you think those sheep slept well? i do. i surely do.
makes your outlook of sheep a bit different, doesn't it? oh how i want to be humble. i want to simply follow Jesus wherever He follows. He certainly doesn't need me nipping at his heels saying "Baaa, Baa, Byyy the way Lord, i'm ready to be healed." or "Baaa, Baaad things are happening to me, Lord, please make them stop!" He knows, friend. He knows. He is aware of it all. He is in control. He is the gate (John 10:7) and nothing comes to us that has not first gone through Him. trust in that. maybe we need to be a little more dumb sometimes. maybe we don't have to have it all figured out. ya think?? isn't that what trust is all about. if we have evidence of something, if we have reasoned it all out and made sense of it, then we no longer need faith for it. we need to simply rest, sleep well, knowing who is guarding the gate....scratch that...who IS the gate...even better.
we should graze with our heads down.
we should simply follow, and stop trying to lead.
we should be thankful for the times He has searched us out and brought us back from wandering.
we should sleep well knowing Who is our gate.
we should accept our dumb-ness and be thankful for His wisdom.
we should spend TIME with Him and in His word so we know His voice.
we should be thankful that He makes us clean from our smelly and dirty sin.
we should remember that we aren't the monkey riding the dog, we aren't even the dog...we are the sheep. be humble and accept that. it isn't really that baaaaaad after all. ;)