It was in the energy of the barn last night, as I forgot about my frozen extremities, that I thought about how we are compared to sheep in so many of Jesus’ teachings. Watching those lamb-babies express all the joy their little fuzzy heads could hold, I could see why someone would leave the 99 and pursue the one – which doesn’t make good business sense, Padre reminds us often. Does good business sense really matter when Rosie’s gotten out? The other 99 are safe. Let’s go get Rosie.
And if you’re the shepherd, delivering all these lamb babies this time of year, how can you not feel how deep Jesus’ love for us is? It affects us all when one lamb is lost. Yeah, there are 99 others, but that one could have been THE one – you know, the Grand Champion, the Next Big Thing. (On the other hand, it doesn’t affect us enough, not nearly enough, to compare it to Jesus’ love.)
Throughout lambing season, there’s an enormous sacrifice of time – baby monitors in the barns and the houses (over at their house, not ours – we’re the “holding tank,” not the “birthing ball”), middle-of-the-night checks on the ewes known to be quiet and those first-year ewes. There’s the breath-holding of lambs that are positioned wrong, and the feeling of having things all in God’s hands, even as they try, try, try, to save every single lamb they can.
Being a shepherd is no glam job. There’s not much money in it (unless one of those lambs DOES turn into the Next Big Thing). There’s not much glory in it (unless you have a Grand Champion, and that’s forgotten in a couple of years). There’s not much rest and relaxation – the sheep have to be fed, every single day, and so much of what makes good production agriculture is fine-tuned and figured out the hard way (even if you have a degree in it).
So why did Jesus choose this analogy? Every time I’m in the barn, and especially now, when the lambs are at their finest frolicking, I get a glimpse of it. I feel like being a sheep and receiving His care isn’t so bad. Yeah, maybe I’m going to eat hay the rest of my life, but every so often, I’ll get fresh grass. No, maybe I won’t be much more than just the mother of someone important, but there’s a chance I’ll get my back scratched when it’s hot out and sheared down when I need it.