Life on a farm is often so interesting. Not only is the learning spectacular and thrilling but the interactions between young children who visit our farm and the animals they interact with sometimes really cause us to stop and take notice.
This last week was one of those weeks. It was doubly special as it fit exactly into the sermon our minister gave on Sunday. I would like to share and see if this story resonates with you and resonates with the entire world, as well.
Our goats and sheep are having babies now. At our farm we create a waiting list for the babies and we don’t just pick “any old folk” to buy our babies. We focus on families who are looking to truly care for the animals and have a special relationship with these little critters. Because we engage with other homesteaders and back to the land people and do classes and education around these pursuits, we really believe that farm animals can totally change the course of a child’s life – like it has done for our own kids. I can personally say growing up in 4H made me the woman I am today and why I am in retirement, a farmer. So, we sell our livestock to others who have the same passions versus those who are simply buying animals they want to kill later. This experience also allows us to touch lives through Christ as it is our way of expressing our love for others – through farm life.
So last week we had numerous amazing families come to the farm to visit and see the first new borns for the season. All were spectacular humans, deeply devoted parents with quite amazing young children. This is what we love about farming; this whole dynamic.
One young family came to visit with four kids. They are getting ready to start a mini homestead and will be buying two of our doelings over the coming weeks. While I was spending time with the parents in the stall with the mamas and babies a few of the kids were hanging with my husband touring the other animals in the barn.
The littlest boy, age 6, was with my husband out by the horses and he told Mike that he noticed one of the horses was not getting as much hay as the others and he was concerned. Their conversation expanded from there.
WHY IS THAT SO SPECTACULAR? First, this is a six year old child. Six year olds know nothing about pecking orders in flocks and herds. They know none of that. It was through this child’s keen observation that he could observe a natural dynamic that was actually quite subtle as the boss mare in our herd is only slightly bossy to the two geldings. It is not even enough to notice to the normal eye. And, in fact, it is one gelding that tends to try and push away this gelding from his hay. But, once again – not very obvious to anyone watching. Mike spent time with the child and explained to him that this was normal in herds and it is called pecking order and was quick to praise this little man for his keen observation and empathy for another living creature.
WHAT IS THE POINT? How many of us as adults in our busy lives stop to notice the slight nuanced struggles of others, only eye catching if you are really looking? How many young people are off their phone long enough to notice even the horses, let alone the dynamic amongst them? And, how many of us above the age of six would have such deep empathy and compassion as to call on an adult and express concern for the down trodden such as Oscar, our gelding who was trying to get more hay?
There are times in life when things take our breath away – so to are the experiences on a farm. Last week was extraordinary in this regard. This little boy was spectacular in the most angelic sense of the word.
THE CONNECTION: I waited awhile to write this blog, as Sunday really struck me when I was listening to the sermon from our pastor. The sermon was on God as our shepherd and what that really means.
As farmers, the sermon was close to home as we too are shepherds to our own sheep flock and the same with our goats. We understand the care and attention it takes and the 100% vigilance over the flock from predators. Our pastor spoke on shepherds with sheep as compared to goats and that makes sense due to Bible scripture. Also, it is very true on the farm that sheep are so frightful they can literally have their heart stop out of fear. Goats are 100 times more curious and adventure driven than sheep. Thus the metaphor is perfect that we are like sheep with weak hearts and laden with fear in need of a shepherd who watches out for us even when we know not that we are in danger.
Then it struck me! This amazing young child was a shepherd. Shepherds do not just observe what is, but also observe what could be. What I mean by that is they are always noticing the change in the scene – sickness, herd dynamics, animals acting spoked, weather changes, scent or tracks of predators, etc. They spend all their senses dedicated to protecting and loving these helpless animals. They are always watching not just the detail of each animal but the skyline for incoming anything. They love deeply as do we with our own herd and tend to the flock with passion. Our minister mentioned that in the old days the herders would take the livestock out during the day and numerous herders would have their sheep in the same enclosures at night. If you study ruins throughout Isreal, Iraq and Iran you can still see stone walls and caves used for such purposes. Our pastor said that in the morning each shepherd would call his flock and all the sheep would separate and go to their own unique master. What he did not mention, but what we know as farmers/shepherds, is that your sheep must love you and trust you enough to follow your voice. That only happens when you are with that lamb from the time it is born. Trust from sheep has to start early due to their fearfulness. To trust your masters voice if you are a sheep means that that shepherd has been with you every day of your life whether you knew it or not. AMAZING RIGHT?! What better love is there in this world than that of a shepherd for his flock?
What my husband witnessed and shared with me was the story of a little boy who was like Christ, with all the awareness, attention to detail and empathy that goes along with such awesome love. And our sermon on Sunday about God as our shepherd and the deep deep love that comes along with all that protection and devotion just filled my heart with great peace and joy.
Since I have readers of this blog from all over the world — Just for a moment, imagine if all of us adults around the world could be shepherds – for all living creatures. Just imagine!
Thank you for letting me share this amazing story and I hope this helps us all think a tad more about what a six year old can teach us. And, for us Christians around the world – it digs a tad deeper into the awesome awareness that is God. And sheds light on his devotion that is dedicated to each one of his sheep, that are you and me.
Luke 15:1-7 – A parable from Jesus – “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
God Bless! L. Davis