She gave birth on a Monday. And just before the last of the three lambs breathed her first earthly breath, the ewe convulsed. The mother’s whole self shook, and the vet said later that she probably had a stroke.
The mama survived, but was paralyzed. And she couldn’t take care for her babies. No milk would come.
Without a helper, all the little lambs would die.
The neighbors called yesterday afternoon to ask if the girls would like to help bottle-feed the one-week-old lambs. So after church, we pushed open the creaking door of an old barn, and the light of a spring afternoon flooded in with us. We stepped into a place thick with the scent of manure and miracle.
Three lambs bleated, underneath the heat lamp.
And our girls held bottles to lips.
“I am the good shepherd.” ~ Jesus Christ
The world convulsed with the pain of labor.
And she shook and growled — this earth broken from the fall, whole parts of it paralyzed. We would have all died, you know, had someone not entered into the stench of a barn to rescue us, the bleating and begging.
The Good Shepherd knows His sheep; knows they could never make it on their own, in this wild and unruly world. Left to their own defenses, sheep would have no defenses. They can’t flee quickly; they have no claws or defensive teeth. They are at the mercy of the cruelest parts of the world that whisper of death in dark corners.
But the Shepherd won’t have it. He steps into the mess, to care for the flock, and He does so at his own expense — not only arriving as shepherd, but becoming a lamb Himself.
The girls hold the lambs close to their bodies on a Sunday afternoon in Iowa, right there in the stench of a barn, because the neighbor farmer said the little lambs like to be held. I scrape manure from the sole of a shoe. Light falls on the sweet hay.
And my girls — tiny shepherds — hold the sheep close. And they don’t want to let go.
And He never lets go.