She was affixed to the post, her snout clamped down with the halter. The doctor searching without success for a leg, a foot, an ear, nothing. Her womb appearing devoid. Waffles undergoing a simple examination is nothing short of an adventure. Bucking and snorting, the untamed ewe a rare and discomforting experience for all, including the veterinarian who not only examines sheep, but raises them. The harness grounding her, fear and terror written across the whites of her wild eyes. Waffles’ only goal, to evacuate the puny stall, to obtain her freedom from the perceived harm harassing her wooly form, the harm of care and provision, the harm of health and needed vaccination.
“Dumb animal.” What the doctor muttered, without subtlety, under his breath. The depth of his frustration apparent.
Sheep are dumb. His announcement, a lightbulb moment, a reminder, making sense of the events. Dumb animal. Attempting to clear the four foot gate, to escape for the field, head still attached to the post, her display of force walloping the gate, dangling by a single screw when all was said and done. Her thick 180 pounds enough to break the barrier but not enough to fray the roped halter and earn her escape.
My novice shepherd-y visions of serene pastures, beasts lying in vibrant, luscious grass, the portrayal of Psalm 23 perfection hijacked by harsh reality. My idyllic perception drowned by snorts and bucks and internal cursing, pungent and intolerable odors, poop piles, urine soaked straw. Humility hovering upon my shoulder, whispering not-so-kind thoughts into my ear. Serenity sacked, Waffles was not the gentle creature of my conjured dreams.
Wild-eyed Waffles, narrating the fear that sends me bolting. The adrenaline and sweated palms, the shortness of breath and sinking sense in stomach’s pit. The knowledge that life as I know it has changed, that no longer can I claim normalcy or monotony. The fear that creeps like a thief in the night, crawling under the sheets and into the mind’s eye, threatening to unravel my rest, my calm, my restoration. The fear that I am in this alone, no one else could understand the depth of pain, the anguish of my soul.
Waffles’ shepherd was incapacitated that day, in bed with a fever, unable to participate in her beloved sheep’s care. The shepherd, in her patient manner, would have spoken with love, with soothing words. The shepherd would have stroked the wool, she would have cooed and clucked with kindness and generosity. Instead, poor Waffles got a fumbling me and a down-to-business veterinarian. While Waffles would have remained terror stricken, she would have been comforted, she would have been treated with mercy – for Claire knows her sheep. Claire adores her sheep.
Can we even comprehend how known and adored we are?
I found myself unhappy and discontent this weekend, without reason. My health good, home secure, family and marriage solid. I have purpose as a mother, mutual friendships. I have hope. Yet, my sense of longing threw me. Why? I have more than most and everything anyone would want if they’re into the quasi-farm thing. So what is it?
My hunch – I have become reliant upon impostors. I have trusted in the security of my government, my solid house, my budget and bank account, my assumption that I will grow old with my husband, my health. I have put my trust into emptiness, for aren’t we all dancing a precarious dance? This life holds no certainty, no entitlement, for none of us is immune to suffering, to loss, to tragedy and disappointment. And so, we live in fear. We live scared because our dedication and sacrifice, our self made selves and our assumptions of fortune could leave us stranded. There is no return on investment. Our impostors don’t love and provide for us, protect and insure our sustenance. Our impostors ask for more and more and more. The relentless call to prove our worth and self-protection. Fear whispers the sinister lies, fear hints at the falsehood – it’s all about us, our effort, our gain, our portfolio, our winning.
I forget, or maybe I never knew the desperate love my perfect shepherd has for me.
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure. (Psalm 23:4 MSG)
I pray I will know how loved I am, now and forever. My daughter, Waffles’ shepherd, a tangible example of this love, no matter what her sheep do, no matter how they fail or fall she will love and provide for them always. For this is the most certain thing they have.