Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?
I kiss soft cheeks good night and tuck little feet under covers, the room dimly lit by the glow of the light coming from the hallway. In this place I hear deep questions uttered from the mouths of my boys.
“Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?”
I see light come to his eyes with the next questions. “Does this mean that sheep are really special? They are really smart right?” The confounded look he had with the very first question was replaced with a knowing smile, he thought he had figured it out! ‘Sheep must be a worthy, special, intelligent, animal, right?!?’
I breath a deep sigh as I think about how I will answer this question, for this question is deeper than he realizes.
But first! Before, we get to the picturesque moment of sweet boys tucked comfortably in their beds, you need the bigger picture, you need the context, and for this we need to back up 15 to 20min.
This place is chaos, peace is a stranger here. This place contains the bickering over who brushes their teeth first, or if someone got more dessert. It’s a two year old disappearing to who knows where because he loves being found. It’s yelling at them to stop jumping on the beds. It’s children’s feet pounding on the hardwood, belly laughing while they run with no clothes on. The night sky may be cloudy, but there are plenty of moons out, running through the upstairs of the house.It’s tired parents trying to wrangle children who have found a second wind the minute the word bedtime is spoken. The level of crazy varies from night to night. But it’s usually there to some degree.
However after the crazy, the “quiet” turns their minds to talking about everything, from farts, to questions like “Why are there homeless people? Why can’t we give them houses and food, so they don’t have to be homeless anymore?”
After teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, and they are in the right bed… my brain is tired. Deep thinking is not convenient. The couch and a bowl of my favorite ice cream is calling my name. Idleness is what I crave when the house gets quiets.
But as I have come to realize, you never know when God is going to call you to attention, it’s most often not what we expect or when we consider it convenient.
I clear my head, and as I look at my son, I chuckle. “Ok, Let’s talk about sheep…. and no, they are not super smart…”
Sheep… Let me share these couple tidbits I found on the internet!
If a sheep rolls over onto its back, it may not be able to get up without assistance, according to the Sheep101 website. A fallen sheep is called a “cast” sheep. They can become distressed and if they are not rolled back into a normal position within a short period of time they will die. When back on their feet, they may need to be supported for a few minutes to ensure they are steady.
- Live Science.com
(What? For real??)
Sheep are frequently thought of as unintelligent animals. Their flocking behavior and quickness to flee and panic can make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated.
OK, so there are more nice things to say about the usefulness of sheep on the internet as well. But these made me laugh, and they also talk about the nature of sheep and how they respond to certain things.
We see here that sheep are not considered smart animals. They can’t defend themselves against their predator’s, they are prone to wander, quick to flee in a panic, and when flipped on their back they get completely stuck in their predicament until help comes… or death…
They need a shepherd to make sure they are protected, to stay with the herd, to be led to pastures that have enough food and a place with water.
If I was going to be compared to an animal, a sheep wouldn’t be my first choice.
I understand why my boys are confused with the Sunday school song “I just want to be a sheep… baa baa baa..”
They would much rather be a cheetah, a horse, a wolf, maybe a dog… but a sheep?? The wheels in their brain spin trying to figure out why God would ever compare them to a sheep?!
Oh, how even in our young minds we cling to the understanding that we have done something to be special! That we are “awesome” enough to be worthy of God’s love and attention.
Let’s take a look at one of the scripture passages that got this whole conversation started in the first place.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
When we take a closer look here, it has nothing to do with the sheep and their awesome skills.
The focus isn’t on who the sheep are.
The focus is on the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, and on the character of the Shepherd.
The focus is on how much the Shepherd loves the sheep and the lengths that He will go to care for them, and to bring those home that are not in His sheep pen yet.
The focus is on the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how the sheep know his voice.
And so, though the Bible calls us sheep, these helpless, stubborn and ridiculous animals, it does not leave us without a Shepherd.
We have a shepherd that sees us with our faults, our flaws. He sees us with our hearts that are so prone to wander from the good pastures in search of someplace ‘better’. He sees us when we get stuck in the muck of life and become overwhelmed and start to panic.
He sees us in the wilderness of certain death, and he hunts us down and carries us home.
He doesn’t hunt us down because of our special behavior in the wilderness, he doesn’t come running for us because we deserve it, or because we have won His approval.
He comes running for us because He is the Good Shepherd, because He chose to love us with this crazy love. With a love that dies for underserving sinners like me.
He has brought me, the underserving sinner into His pasture. He calls me His own, and leads me to life and not just life, but a life of abundant love and grace and mercy and care.
Just because He loves me.
We know His voice. The reason we know the Good Shepherds voice, is all because of Jesus, who laid down His life for us, the sheep. When He died on that cross and took our punishment, He gave us life. Jesus is the gate that we enter through into His pasture by grace. Because of Jesus we can now be called children of God, and children know their Fathers voice.
So… at bedtime when I am tired, when the timing seems inconvenient, and I don’t think I will be able to find the right words. Here God invites me to share of His goodness, His grace with my children. Even here in this conversation I continue to see how the Good Shepherd pursues us, He is always at work, bringing in His lost ones, tending to us and loving us, His sheep.
We are special.
Not special because we are so awesome. But because God has made us so.