I have only seen a lamb born once, and it was quite accidental, in the early days of my courtship with Prince Charming. Having always been a tagalong, I found myself in the barn when Shepherd D. was pulling a lamb. It’s called “pulling” because his arm was all the way in, squirreling and fidgeting the lamb around. My memory tells me that the lamb was positioned wrong (otherwise the ewe can usually get them out on her own). Shepherd D. has done this a time or two, and though Prince Charming assures me that *I* could do it (!), and that I would have an advantage with my arms being smaller and thus more maneuverable, watching Shepherd D. took my breath away a little bit.
There was no hesitation, no pause for reflection, no thinking of what he should do. He simply took off his coat, pushed up his sleeve, and in the middle of the dim barn, full of sheep noises and hay smells, he stuck his arm up into that ewe to help her have her baby.
I can’t remember the outcome, whether the lamb lived or died. That’s not important to my memory. The lesson I took, and the lesson I come back to as I remember this scene, is how Shepherd D. just did what had to be done. He walked over there, calmly and with purpose, and helped out his ewe. She’s his responsibility, you see, and so is her lamb. Being a “shepherd,” in the modern living-in-the-US sense of things, means making sure your ewes have their lambs. It means staying up all night in the coldest part of the year, and it means calculations with a calendar and guesswork and all sorts of other work once the lambs are born.
Shepherd D. loves this work. He loves it so much that it’s just a hobby, really. They don’t make their living off the sheep; they have the sheep because they LIKE them.
As I anticipate my visit to see the new leaping bundles of cuteness and bleating, I can’t help but think of how God must feel toward us. He sure doesn’t make his “living off of us. Myself, I’m always wandering away and then needing his assistance. And he never hesitates or wavers – he comes right over to help me, pick me up, sustain me. Struggle though I might, I find him again each week at Mass, at Adoration, in my child’s hug. He never fails me, even though I am unreliable and short-sighted and whiny.
The lambs have started coming, and as the sky spits snow and the thermometer dips ever lower, I’ll sneak into the barn now and then to remind myself of just how much God loves me.