Last week I was on a phone call with my mom when I randomly had a thought… if it is so important for sheep to be sheared… are there wild sheep? How do they survive if they’re not sheared?
It’s a thought I had had many times before, but never actually looked for an answer. I probably would have done the same this time, but my mom mentioned that she had just actually seen an article on Facebook about an unsheared sheep. We looked it up.
It was from 2004… typical posts on Facebook, continuously recycled… but I read it and looked into it anyway. This sheep was named Shrek and he hadn’t been sheared for SIX YEARS!! Look at him before, then laying in that 60lbs of wool they just cut off of him.
So if he grew all of that in just 6 years then how do wild sheep survive?
Ancient sheep actually used to shed their wool; they didn’t need to be sheared. The herders would then walk around the fields collecting the shed wool. They thought this was ineffective but didn’t know a better way. Then they noticed that one or two sheep were not shedding. They didn’t know that this was because of genetic mutations in the sheep, but they knew that they could breed two non-shedding sheep and get them to make a new baby non-shedding sheep. This selective breeding was a very early form of genetic manipulation.
So sheep used to shed their wool, but now they don’t due to this manipulation. There are still some breeds that still shed their wool (pictured below), but most have been domesticated to live in harmony with their shepherd who takes care of them.
The problem with Shrek was that he was a sheep who doesn’t shed, and for those 6 years he didn’t have a shepherd to take care of him. He spent those 6 years hiding in caves and running away because he was scared of being sheared by the shepherd. He didn’t know it was good for him, that the shepherd was trying to help him. Does this sound familiar?
We do this all the time. Most of us don’t run from hair clippers, but we run from our shepherd. We run from God because the things He asks of us sound scary or hard. We don’t understand or choose to ignore that those things are actually what is best for us.
I spent this last weekend with 60 great teenagers preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, and one of the big questions we tackled was “What is holding you back?” In other words, what is so scary about diving deeper and following Christ with your whole life? If you know the truth, if you know that the Good Shepherd is the best thing for your well-being, why would you not want to be as close to him as possible?
So just like I challenged those teens, I challenge you to think about this. You know the teachings. You know what is being asked of you. So what specifically is so scary? I need you to be specific. I don’t want you to say, “It’s hard to live a good Christian life.” Why? Why is it hard? Which parts of it? When we acknowledge what is difficult, when we put a name on that fear, it is easier to address. Then we can start that trip back to Christ, back to the comfort in his care.
This weekend I was told the story of the Prodigal Son for probably the 23,389th time, but I heard something I’d never heard before. In the story the son asks for his inheritance and goes out to live a life of sin. He goes out but runs out of money. He realizes that it would be better if he were to go back, even if he were to only live as a slave of his father. So he heads back and when he is still a long ways down the road his father sees him and runs to him and welcomes him back as his son whom he loves.
The thing that stood out to me was the ending. The father sees the son when he is still far away. This means that he was looking for him. This whole time, he was looking and waiting and wanting his son to come back. Then once the son makes this move to come back, the father RUNS to him. He fills the rest of that gap. The same is true with God. If we have run away, if we were afraid of the life that Christ calls us to, when we make just one small step back, God sees it. When you make that small move back to Him, He will embrace you and overwhelm you with His love. So let us put a name to our fears, let us make a small change, then brace yourself for the overwhelming love and goodness of God.