When The Sheep Are Finally Brought Home
We took a "scenic detour" whilst driving through the English countryside last week. Which is a much more elegant way of saying we got lost in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the middle of England.
Our little band found ourselves on a dead end road in a picturesque valley flanked by a field occupied by sheep. Merideth wanted me to stop so she could get out to take some photos, and when I did, she and my oldest boy piled out.
In short order they returned to the car and informed us that there was a dead sheep lying by the fence. They told us that they'd thought it was just sick, but when it didn't respond to their bleating like a sheep to stir it, and didn't move when they hit it with a rock, they determined it had expired.
Also it wasn't breathing, and was covered in flies.
As we were turning the car around to exit the valley, my son was suddenly exercised to tell someone that the sheep was dead. I informed him of my general policy regarding expired sheep in a field at the end of a dead end road: "Don't get involved." My policy didn't sit well with him.
Finally, we let him out and he found someone home in one of the nearby houses. "I wondered what that dreadful smell was," the man told him. He also told him that he would tell someone right away. When he got back to the car we all affirmed his instinct to do the right thing. I grudgingly admitted my policy probably wasn't the kindest thing in the world.
When we talked (and laughed) about the incident later that day, we couldn't help drawing a correlation between this story and the parable that Jesus told about the lost sheep:
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’We talked about the absurd love of God, and how incredible this story would have been to the people Jesus was speaking to in that moment. Then my son said something poignant. "Maybe the sheep in the story is just finally being brought home."
I knew that he was thinking of the poor dead sheep by the fence, and then I felt pretty bad about my policy, and my grumpy dad attitude from earlier in the day.
I recalled a question that a professor in seminary asked of the class. "Why would God let a little thing like death get in the way of grace?" Why indeed. (If you ever want to read a great book that wrestles with this idea try C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce)
I realize sometimes just how little I understand when it comes to the grace and mercy of God. I believe our hope should be that it's more absurd, expansive and far-reaching than our imaginations can take us. I want to live into that hope ever mindful of how narrow my perspective is compared to God's.
May you live today in joy, knowing that the love of God is absurd and wonderful and reaches you wherever you might roam. May you find peace and hope in the knowledge that God's grace is beyond your comprehension. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.