Nothing makes you consider what a faithful life looks like than that moment when you’re knee deep in the clinging mud of a freezing stream, trying to pull a floundering ewe to safety.
In short, the biblical imagery of believers as sheep? Accurate.
But maybe not in the way you think.
I didn’t have much time. The last golden rays of winter light were about to dim, and not only was the ewe stuck in the freezing waters, she was tangled in the strands of an electric fence.
She hadn’t been there long — but she needed to get out, before she succumbed to the combination of shock from the electric current and the freezing water.
I waded in. My insulated overalls and boots cut the chill of the day, but the cold mud immediately coated everything. The ewe was silent and immobile, her pupils dilated. I spoke quietly, trying to calm her.
Pressing my boot into the fence, I used my heavy gloves to pull her legs out of the tangled strands. I kept up a soft cadence to soothe her. Even with her legs free though, she lay in the water, her sides heaving.
I got a firm grip on her front legs and began pulling her out of the water. She was a dead weight, her wool coated with the sticky, cold mud. Slipping and sliding up the bank, I hauled her out.
She showed no signs of moving, except for her heavy breathing. We stayed there, the silence complete.
But after several minutes, the ewe began struggling, staggering and wobbling her way to a stand. I lurched upright, mindful of the slick creek bank. Before I could get my balance though, she was doggedly weaving away, her mud-soaked wool dripping.
I’d like to say I followed calmly, completely zen that this animal I just rescued was walking away without a thought for what I’d done for it. Right. I was extremely … frustrated.
It has been months since that moment. I’ve moved halfway across the world. There are plenty of sheep, but not one frozen stream to be found.
Yet, it stays with me.
There was no way she would be able to get out under her own power. She needed me. The moment she could break free though, she left, without a thought for what I had done for her.
I know. I know. I can hear you now — “Rebecca, it’s an animal. They are not capable of rational thought.”
Why has scene come back to so often? Because I’ve been that sheep, more often than I’d like to admit, especially in the past six months. One moment, resting in the strength of the one who is stronger than anything in this world. The next, wandering on my own, completely unmoved by his provision.
Then I catch myself — and ask why? Why am I so predictable? Why do I seem to prefer the roller coaster approach? Faithful. Not faithful. Faithful. Not faithful. Rinse and repeat.
It amazes me that God still hangs with us. That he pursues us, relentlessly. The Bible is full of stories of people who wander, and of a God who goes after them. Every time.
That is the beauty of it. We may forget — for a moment or longer — but he never does. I can’t say it makes sense. But I’m glad.
Because the next time I’m wallowing in the slippery mud and freezing water, he’ll be there. Insulated overalls and boots at the ready.