Madonna House

Daft Sheep

by Cheryl Ann Smith

“The only thing dafter than sheep is one who owns sheep,” our friend Richard muttered as he rescued one of his sheep snared in the fence by our home.

I’d like to say it was a tiny lamb who didn’t know any better, but this was a teenager, greedy for the greenery on the other side of the fence. His head was trapped in a gap, and he had been crying non-stop for half an hour—loudly.

It was beautiful, really, to watch Richard as the Good Shepherd, straddling the “lost sheep” with his powerful body and lifting him free. His muttering of “daft sheep” was good natured, and I discounted it as I always do: almost everyone complains about the stupidity of sheep. I like sheep, and I love the abandon of lambs gambolling, racing, and playing.

However, my loyalty began to waver the next day, as the daft teenager went back to the same green patch and once again cried out his fear and frustration as he couldn’t free himself.

This time, however, Richard wasn’t around, nor was anyone else of an age and strength to rescue our hapless friend. Bravely I strode over to be the “Good Shepherd,” but soon realized it was a task beyond me.

The cries became nerve-wracking until the farmer finally came to the rescue—hourslater.

When the same scenario was played out on the third day in a row, my term for the sheep was less affectionate than daft. Have you heard the definition of insanity as “returning to the same pattern over and over again, expecting a different result”? We had a mad sheep on our hands.

However, before all of us in the house got too carried away in our complaints, it suddenly struck us: are we human beings so different?

What about the times we say, just this once I’ll have a drink or a chocolate mousse, or play a computer game, or whatever our particular addiction might be? Then find ourselves caught in the fence, unable to extricate ourselves from our age-old trap.

Or just this once I’ll miss Mass on Sunday, or flirt and follow the attraction with someone I know is not good for me, or steal something from the workplace.

Over and over again, we experience a restlessness and dissatisfaction with what we’ve chosen. We feel confined, empty, hungry. We want something more. And there it is, on the other side of the fence—a high, a distraction, an escape, a dream of being more powerful and less vulnerable and empty.

Only when we find ourselves snared and unable to free ourselves, do we finally face the truth: I am the lost sheep. Only the Good Shepherd can save me. And we madly bleat for help.

The beauty of the Savior is that he doesn’t remind us of the thousand times we’ve already fallen into this particular trap. He doesn’t hold against us the thousand times that lie ahead. He lovingly frees us, binds up our self-inflicted wounds, and waits.

What does He wait for? We will always sin, fall down, get lost. That is just part of our human nature. I think he waits for us to open our eyes and see as he sees. That grass on the other side of the fence will only bring us sorrow. But because we have him, we already possess all we long for.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Suddenly, the world was brighter, clearer, more colorful, filled with music. The only place we wanted to be was with our beloved one. Boundaries and constrictions faded; life held infinite possibilities. That is just a glimpse of our life in God.

But we lose sight of it, then doubt it and then seek the green grass on the other side of the fence to give us what we think we lack, what we think will return to us the sense of being alive and free.

I have learned that I can only find God in my heart right now, exactly where I am. He doesn’t wait for me to be perfect before he gives me a life lived in union with him. He simply waits for me to stop looking elsewhere.

Perhaps after the 1,001st time of seeking fulfillment in the wrong places, I may finally surrender and exclaim, “You are all I desire. I can find no life or love outside of you. My hunger and vulnerability are not a curse, but an emptiness waiting to be filled with you. I can’t bear to waste any more time and energy on the futility of seeking the grass on the other side of the fence. I can be content only with your infinite love.”

Of course this doesn’t happen in one fell swoop, or once and for all. But as we begin to see with God’s eyes, we begin to see our life as verdant, unbounded, and filled with our heart’s desire, the Good Shepherd. We become lambs frisking and frolicking and springing with joy.

By the way, I only learned later that Richard is dafter than sheep, because he ownssheep. And the Good Shepherd is the daftest of all, because he claims each one of us!