Having inherited a few small acres of land and wondering what to do with it, I settled on the idea of getting a few sheep. Excitedly I set off early one morning in February 2018 to collect my 'starter flock' comprising five ewes, two of which were pregnant and one having a newborn lamb. The deal was done, the sheep were loaded onto the trailer, and I set off for home. As I drove along glancing at the trailer in the rear view mirror, I asked myself "What have you done Trev? You know nothing about sheep!"
Arriving home, I backed the trailer into the field, opened it up & chased the sheep out. I owned some sheep and they lived in my field, but I was far from being a shepherd! That would require a whole lot of learning, on the job, hands on, and thanking God for Google.
For a few days the sheep kept their distance and chose to sleep against the farthest hedge. They did not know me, were wary of me, and refused to come near. It took me a while to learn that sheep are easier led than they are herded. Coming behind with flapping arms whilst shouting did nothing more than agitate the sheep and cause them to run, everywhere but where I wanted them. As I got more frustrated they got more agitated and only the expenditure of energy was being achieved. I discovered that a bucket of meal was a great friend that attracted the sheep to me rather than me running after them. Very quickly the sheep came to hear my voice and respond by quickly running to their trough. The sheep know the voice of the one who feeds and nurtures and leads to shelter.
When I first got my sheep I did not know them and could not tell them apart. When I looked at them I could only see black and white speckled sheep, and the only way I could tell them apart was to check their ear tag numbers. However, spending time with them was the key to knowing them. Over time I have become familiar with their appearances and can tell them apart at a distance. Beyond their looks, I have gained understanding of their personalities and now know the flock leader, the friendly one, the troublemaker, the escape artist, the wary one, the food lover, and so on. As I have come to know my sheep they have come to know me. A sheep can see almost 360 degrees and as soon as even one catches sight of me she bleats and they all come running. My wife often remarks that they pay no need to her at all but one sight of me and they all appear and make a huge racket.
When I walk into the field among my sheep they watch and seem to quickly understand my intentions. They respond by following when they see I am leading them to fresh pasture, or to shelter, or to water. They seem to understand that the shepherd knows what they need, and that he provides it, so they trust his leading.
Let us, the sheep of God's flock, understand that He knows us and our needs and provides for us. We need to know Him and trust Him by following His lead. May we listen out for His voice and keep our eyes open to His presence that we might run to Him and make that excited, joyful racket.
For those of us that the Great Shepherd chooses to shepherd His flock through, the under-shepherds, may we carefully lead the sheep rather than driving them. May we know them and all their ways, and allow them to know us and trust us as we lead them into all that they need. I pray they follow us as we continue to follow the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.