A couple of weeks ago, a news article caught my eye. A wily ram in Australia, found several miles from the nearest sheep farm, had successfully avoided his yearly haircut for five or six years. Merino sheep are bred for their wool, and the average fleece, shorn annually, weighs about 11 pounds. Thus, this fellow’s rebellion resulted in quite an extra load to carry around.
The pictures were fascinating. I couldn’t decide if the poor creature looked more like a perfectly cooked marshmallow, lightly browned and unevenly puffy, or like a giant, dirty head of cauliflower on legs. Either way, this wayward farm animal was having difficulty walking, weighted down as he was, and his eyes were completely covered. It was obvious that he was living a rather miserable existence.
The rescue workers named him Chris and set to work on helping him out. Sedating the nervous animal, they carefully separated him from his mounds of wool. The fleece weighed 89 pounds. 89 pounds! Enough to knit 67 sweaters with a bit left over for a few hats, it was reported.
When I read about Chris, I immediately thought, “Isn’t that just like us humans?” How often do I avoid my Shepherd, not wanting the necessary ‘shearing’ in my life? I run away and over time become bloated with layers of self-centeredness, pride, and complacency. My walk becomes difficult and I find it impossible to see where my Savior would lead me. And so I wander aimlessly, heavy and blind to anyone’s needs but my own.
Chris was sedated before the shearing, partly because of his stress level, but mostly because the weight of his wool falling away put his skin in danger of tearing away. Likewise, when my Shepherd snips away the dark and selfish bits of me, it hurts. Dying to self is a painful process, isn’t it?
Thankfully, our Shepherd is good; he provides the soothing balm of his extraordinary grace and peace which covers the pain. So much so that afterwards, I am able to be grateful for his stripping away of my counterfeit self-sufficiency and I wonder how I was foolish enough to wander away at all.
Unencumbered, Chris became a new ram. He lost his anxiety and once again enjoyed the fellowship of people. Again, I couldn’t help but see the parallel. After seasons of spiritual disconnect, when I am made right with my Creator and my eyes are reopened, the multitude of fears that paralyze me in my blindness get blown away like dandelion fluff in the breeze. I feel light and free, once again able to enjoy the fellowship of my God and of others.
Perhaps I’ll put a picture of Chris up on my writing wall as a reminder that when I try to do things my own way, apart from the Shepherd, I end up ponderous and dim. Or maybe simply a photo of his impressive, albeit nasty, fleece; a picture of lightness and freedom, yes?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1, NLT
*Photo by duron123, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net