Saturday, January 19, 2019


When I was in high school, shortly after the earth’s crust began to cool, I joined a local 4-H Club (“4-H” stands for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health," as I recall.) One of my projects was to raise a small flock of Shropshire sheep.

Shropshires are beautiful animals with jet black faces, ears and feet, and sculptured bodies covered with fine-textured white wool. They’re lovely to look at, but mindnumbingly dumb! Horses are smart; dogs are smarter (I don't know, nor would I say, where cats belong on that continuum), but sheep are just plain DUMB.

Case in point; My father and I spent several weeks fencing off a section of choice bottom land, putting up a stout fence with 36” of hog-wire at the bottom, topped by three strands of barbed wire—all for their sake to provide pasture and protect them from coyotes and roving farm dogs. The pasture was green and lush with a little stream flowing through it that provided pools of quiet water. At night I penned them in a shed where they were sheltered from the weather and safe from predators. My sheep had everything a sheep could want: feed, water, shelter and TLC. But it was never enough. 

Prone to wander, they wriggled under the fence where it crossed the stream, forsook their pasture to go where the wild things were. 

Or, they forced their heads through the hog-wire to grab a mouthful of weeds on the other side, though the sweet grass on their side of the fence was better—only to find their heads stuck fast in the wire. (One of my evening chores was to walk the fence-line and push their heads back through the mesh.) 

Knee-deep in clover, my sheep were never content. "Morons!" I yelled at them in frustration and rage.

Not so Jesus: "If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:12-15). 

Jesus’ response to our wanderlust? Relentless love. 

David Roper


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